A COUPLE have suffered abuse and vandalism and seen their businesses suffer after being mistaken for a farmer convicted of neglecting animals.

Phil and Carol Cockerill, of Ashgrove Farm, near Pickering, have had their home pelted with eggs, received hate mail, been confronted in the street and seen trade for their dog breeding and farming businesses plummet after animal rights activists mistook them for a Rosedale man convicted of keeping cattle in “hazardous conditions”.

Andrew Cockerill, of Pickering, keeps cattle at The Grazings, Rosedale Abbey. He pleaded guilty to seven offences of breaching animal health and welfare legislation in May, and was given a suspended prison sentence.

Phil and Carol run businesses trading as Cockerills of Pickering and UK Drilling. They have no connections to the other man.

About three weeks ago they became aware they were being targeted by attacks, but had no idea why.

Mr Cockerill said: “We saw that eggs had been thrown at the farm sign. We hadn’t a clue what was behind it. We just put it down to kids.”

Shortly after they received anonymous letters saying “you should be strung up for this”, but still did not know what was behind the abuse.

Mrs Cockerill, who is a licensed dog breeder, even faced abuse in the street when she was out shopping in Pickering, and the couple received prank phone calls.

It was only when a Ryedale dog warden, who knows Carol through her voluntary work with the Cats Protection League, made the connection between the prosecution and the Cockerill name and pointed this out to the couple, that the penny dropped.

When he realised what was behind the attacks, Mr Cockerill contacted North Yorkshire County Council, who had prosecuted Andrew Cockerill, to clear up the confusion.

The county council has removed references to the prosecution from its website, and has issued a statement saying: “North Yorkshire County Council would like to make it plain that a prosecution over animal welfare legislation which resulted in May in the conviction of livestock keeper Andrew Cockerill of Pickering, who keeps cattle at The Grazings, Rosedale Abbey, was not connected in any way with the business trading as Cockerills, UK Drilling, at Ashgrove Farm, Marton Lane, Pickering.”