A STUDENT who fried his flatmate’s hamster in a drunken prank has been banned from keeping any animals for eight years.

Police found the dead hamster in a frying pan next to a heated oven hob in James White’s flat in York city centre, but it was unclear whether the animal was dead or alive when it went into the pan, Selby Magistrates Court heard.

Another resident of the block of flats had called police to deal with the 21-year-old student, who was behaving so strangely a district judge later described him as “drunk to the point of madness”.

White, of Pope’s Head Court, off Market Street, denied killing the female Syrian hamster by frying it on February 4 last year, but admitted animal cruelty.

He is studying politics and international relations at the University of York. District judge Roy Anderson heard a post-mortem examination showed the hamster did not die of natural causes, but it was not clear whether it died from being fried or from rough handling minutes before it was put in the pan.“Quite what happened on that night is still shrouded in a degree of mystery,” he said to White. “You, by your treatment of this small unfortunate rodent, destroyed your good character and earned a criminal conviction.”

He ordered White to do 120 hours’ unpaid work, banned him from keeping any animal for eight years and ordered him to pay £1,000 prosecution costs.

Phil Brown, prosecuting for the RSPCA, said when police walked into White’s home they noted “a significant and pungent smell coming from the flat.”

The hob was on full, next to the pan. White was on the floor in a different part of the building and said he had “fried it”. He later said he could not remember saying those words.

Police arrested him and took him to Fulford Road Police Station, where a custody officer said he showed some of the “most bizarre behaviour” he had ever seen.

On being asked his name, White said: “one, two, three, four” and after he sobered up, a psychiatrist and a specialist social worker were called to assess whether he could be interviewed.

For White, Kevin Blount said: “It was drunken foolishness by a student which had tragic consequences for the hamster.”

He handed in a letter from the hamster’s owner in support of White, adding that the two are still flatmates.

Mr Blount said White had never intended to kill or torture the hamster as that was not in his character.

Sentencing, District Judge Anderson said he had no doubt that in the normal course of his life, White was a “decent hardworking young man” doing his best to get a good degree and make a career for himself.

Speaking after the case, RSPCA inspector Claire Mitchell said: “I’ve heard of animals being put into microwaves but never come across this before. Although it was a police officer who found the hamster I have to say it was quite upsetting to hear about this cruelty.”