Widow dies with dogs

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THE body of a 51-year-old woman huddled together with 31 dead dogs was discovered yesterday in a small van parked by a railway line at Ferryhill, Co Durham. A hosepipe led from the exhaust into the vehicle, a Durham police spokesman said.

The alarm was raised by a man out walking his dog. Describing the episode as 'a very tragic incident,' police said there were no suspicious circumstances.

The animals were removed to a pet crematorium. A Durham police spokesman added: 'They will be photographed for forensic purposes and disposed of under supervision.'

The dead woman is understood to be a widow known locally for her animal rescue work over 30 years. Neighbours had complained about the noise and smell of her terraced house.

Environmental health officers who visited the property 15 months ago found more than 40 strays and a notice warning: 'Trespassers will be eaten alive.' Sedgefield District Council served an enforcement order to reduce the number of animals.

Last year the woman, a geriatric nurse, disposed of 20 dogs but told sympathetic neighbours she would rather die than lose all of them. She said: 'They are well cared for when I'm out at work. I leave a fire and the radio on so they will be comfortable. I can't help being an eccentric. I just love my dogs.'