Pensioner spent night in a ‘freezing’ cell after pet bit a dog walker

Epileptic pensioner, 78, was forced to spend night in a ‘freezing cold’ jail cell after her Labrador-Collie cross Marley bit a dog walker sparking series of police blunders

  • Beryl Harvey’s beloved cross Marley bit fellow dog walker Fiona O’Brien-Smith
  • But she missed her court hearing after police sent summons to wrong address
  • She was then arrested by officers at home in Wivenhoe, Essex at taken to station
  • Pensioner was forced to spend night in police cells ahead of new court hearing

A pensioner who suffers with epilepsy and high blood pressure was forced to spend a ‘freezing cold’ night in police cells after a series of incredible police blunders.

Beryl Harvey’s beloved Labrador-Collie cross Marley bit fellow dog walker Fiona O’Brien-Smith on a playing field near her home.

The incident left her with a light scratch and bruising and police went on to interview Mrs Harvey, 78, after the incident, which occurred almost seven months ago.

Despite hearing nothing after her interview, the grandmother-of-five was stunned last week when she received a letter telling her she had missed a court hearing.


Beryl Harvey’s beloved Labrador-Collie cross Marley (pictured left and right) bit fellow dog walker Fiona O’Brien-Smith on a playing field near her home

The first letter warning the pensioner of her court case had been sent to the same street name in the wrong town, making her unaware she had been charged.

By the time it finally arrived at her home in Wivenhoe, Essex, the original court date had passed. 

Mrs Harvey was then told to hand herself in at Colchester police station, but due to more blunders officers were still sent to arrest her at her home on Monday night.


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The pensioner, who has no previous convictions, was then forced to spend a terrifying night in police cells ahead of her hearing before magistrates in Colchester.

She was taken from the police station to the court and when she finally appeared before magistrates 21 hours after her arrest she admitted a charge of being in charge of a dog which was dangerously out of control.

Now back home, she has spoken publicly for the first time about her ordeal, saying she’s lived in ‘fear’ since the incident in March.

Mrs Harvey was sent this letter from police informing her that she would be arrested by officers if she did not attend a police station, following a missed court appearance

‘I’ve never had anything like this in my life, it was really pretty frightening. I was really worried about the outcome. It was just unbelievable.

‘Two policemen arrived at my door and said “we are arresting you and taking you to the police station”. 

‘They took me into custody and took everything from me, my bracelet, jewellery, watch, and all of my medication.’

The retired office administrator said the ordeal had been tough for both her and her family.

‘The cells were bleak, I don’t recommend it. I should think it was the worst night’s sleep of my life.

The park (pictured) where Beryl Harvey walks her dog Marley near her home in Wivenhoe, Essex

‘I was allowed to make a phone call and I rang my partner and he told my daughter – they were running around like scolded cats trying to find solicitors to help us.

‘They were very concerned I was going to have a seizure with all the stress.’ 

Church volunteer Mrs Harvey did not hit out at the police for their actions, kindly saying she had just been very unfortunate.

‘The police will just say they are doing their job. It was just error after error with ghastly jail cell food in-between.’ 

Magistrates handed her a 12-month conditional discharge, meaning there will be no further punishment against her if she does not re-offend.

Mrs Harvey was ordered to pay £50 compensation to the victim. She was also ordered to keep Marley muzzled following the incident on March 14. 

Essex Police have been approached for comment.

The pensioner, who has no previous convictions, was forced to spend a terrifying night in police cells ahead of her hearing before magistrates in Colchester (pictured)

An Essex Police spokeswoman said: ‘Mrs Harvey was interviewed in April and attended the police station in July in connection with the investigation.

‘A postal requisition was sent in August informing Miss Harvey she had been charged with being in charge of a dog dangerously out of control causing injury and to attend Colchester Magistrates Court on October 2.

‘When she failed to attend the hearing, the court issued a warrant for her arrest and a letter was sent to Miss Harvey informing her of this.

‘She was arrested according to the terms of the warrant and placed before the next available court. When the courts issue a warrant, these cannot be revoked without their authority.

‘The letters were sent to the address we had on our records. If Miss Harvey is unhappy with how the matter has been dealt with, she can contact us and we will look into her concerns.’

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