A billionaire’s son has been convicted after giving away his dog – and then kidnapping it back in a ‘military-style’ operation he live tweeted.
Tariq Al Habtoor, whose father Rashid owns the Habtoor hotel chain, handed Ozzy a chocolate Labrador to a couple after deciding he could no longer look after him.
But the 22 year-old student then had a change of heart and offered new owners Rosanne Morgan and Joshua Gould £1,500 for the pet.
They told him Ozzy was doing well and not for sale so Dubai-born Al Habtoor – whose father plays polo with Prince Charles – hatched a kidnap plan.
The Dubai-born engineering student live-blogged his quest on Twitter, announcing ‘time for a late-night mission,’ ‘no going back now’ and ‘now or never.
He tracked down Ozzy to Joshua’s parents home in Chistlet, Kent where he crept into the back garden.
Joashua spotted Al Habtoor leaping over a 5ft fence with the dog before smuggling him into a Range Rover and driving off.
After snatching the dog Al Habtoor posted “success”, before adding “on the run.”
Al Habtoor, whose father also numbers Dubai’s ruling Makhtoum family among his friends, was questioned by police but refused to say what he had done with the dog.
The animal was later spotted bedraggled and underfed in High Wycombe, Bucks – miles from Al Habtoor’s home in Long Ditton, Surrey.
A woman walking her own dog caught it and took it to a vet who scanned its microchip and contacted Rosanne and Joshua.
Al Habtoor was originally found guilty of theft by magistrates at Thanet and ordered to do 120 hours of unpaid work.
He appealed against the conviction and took his case to Canterbury Crown Court where he represented himself.
But after five minutes in the witness box he admitted taking the dog and his appeal was rejected by the judge and two magistrates.
Al Habtoor then asked for his original sentence to be changed, telling the judge he was “too busy” as a student to do unpaid community work.
He said: “I am a full time student in my second year of engineering.
“I don’t have time for community service, so I would rather have a suspended sentence or a prison sentence.”
Judge Nigel Van Der Bijl told him: “I am sorry but I can’t offer you a place in prison” but imposed a six-month prison sentence suspended for two years.
Al Habtoor, a student at Kingston University in Surrey, was also ordered to pay £450 costs on top of the £760 costs and surcharge from the earlier magistrates court hearing.
The court heard how he advertised Ozzy on Kingston University Facebook site and agreed to meet Rosanne and Joshua and hand him over.
He told the court: “I got the dog when it was just eight weeks old. I raised it for about a year but then I thought that, living alone, the dog needed more attention.
“It was a happy dog but I wanted it to have kids.”
Rosanne, a fellow student, told the court: “I met up with him to see what the dog looked like. He told me he could no longer look after him.
“He was more than happy for us to rear the dog when I described how Ozzy would be kept and he said: ‘Perfect’. He said he didn’t want any money.”
Al Habtoor had claimed he only wanted to see his dog one last time after being denied a final visit to him.
He told the court: “I felt wronged when I wasn’t allowed my last visit. I had given everything for free. I didn’t ask for anything. I just wanted a visit.
“I know that what I did was wrong by taking the dog but it was the only way I was going to be able to see him.
“To me he wasn’t just an animal, but when I thought I wasn’t going to see him again I felt I had no choice.
“I tried to negotiate but there seemed to be no way we could be civilised about it.”
The judge asked him: “Why did you plan this as a military-style operation?”
Al Habtoor replied: “I didn’t really think that I would make it. I thought I would be caught.”
Dean Thistle, prosecuting, said Al Habtoor offered Rosanne £650 and then £1,500 to buy back the pet but she told him: “No, absolutely not.”
Rosanne broke down and cried in the witness box when she described a call from her boyfriend saying that Ozzy had been snatched.
Joshua told how he heard a noise and saw a dark figure in the back garden “making a noise enticing the dog towards him.”
He said: “He then just picked up the dog and ran out. I went back into the house and shouted that someone had taken Ozzy.”
Al Habtoor fled his strict father, said to be a devout Muslim, when he was just 16 to live with his mother Sarra Fotheringham in Surrey.
As a teenager in Dubai Al Habtoor was surrounded by bodyguards and unable to go out with his friends.