Published: 18:12, 20 April 2021
| Updated: 20:35, 21 April 2021
A man is devastated after suspected scammers threatened to kill his beloved missing dog unless he pays them £1,000.
Campaigner Peter Carroll, 60, received three phone calls from people claiming they had Chihuahua Peaches, who disappeared from her home near Folkestone on Sunday.
Peter Carroll speaks about his ordeal
The people on the phone told Mr Carroll he had only minutes to make a deal with them, or else they would harm the pet.
Mr Carroll, who along with Joanna Lumley led a campaign in 2009 for Gurkha soldiers to have the right to settle in the UK, immediately called the police who are now investigating.
He said: "I got a phone call from a private number saying they've got my dog. At first I though 'brilliant'.
"But then they said unless I give them £1,000 they will kill her.
"I had three calls in total from them, pressuring me to make a decision, saying I've only got a few minutes to decide.
"It's evil. It's emotionally cruel.
"We've already gone through the despair of Peaches going missing.
"You've lost your beloved pet, a part of the family. And then you have the joy of thinking she's been found. And then the threats."
Mr Carroll, who was also behind the Fair Fuel UK campaign, does not believe the people making threats actually have Peaches, and instead are trying to scam him.
He said: "I want to go public with this because someone else, maybe someone older, might be tempted to give them money."
Nine-year-old Peaches went missing on Sunday from Mr Carroll's home near the village of Peene, near Folkestone.
He turned the house upside down looking for her before realising she must have got out, possibly through the cat flap.
He has now carried out searches, posted on social media and distributed leaflets. He believes this is how the scammers got his contact details.
Yesterday he was told some people in a silver Audi had knocked on some homes asking if they have lost a dog, and Mr Carroll believes they could have found Peaches.
He is particularly worried for her health as she is on heart medication, which needs to be taken twice a day.
He said: "Our neighbours have been magnificent. They've been searching the woods and fields. It has been lovely to see the help and support.
"I also can't praise the police enough for their help. They have taken it very seriously.
"We just want Peaches back home with us."
A spokesman for Kent Police said: "Kent Police is investigating allegations relating to the disappearance of a dog near Folkestone."
If you have seen Peaches, call Peter on 07866800755.