Nottinghamshire

Bella the dog now has new owners after surviving a horrific ordeal in which she was tied to a large rock in an attempted drowning in the River Trent.

The Belgian Shepherd’s lead was attached to a carrier bag tied to a large rock before she was rescued by passer-by Jane Harper, and her friend Joanne Bellamy.

Bella was discovered struggling and submerged in the water close to Long Lane in Farndon near Newark on January 6, 2020 before the RSPCA and police launched an investigation.

The previous owner of the dog, Charlene Latham, 31, of St Brannocks Road, Ilfracombe in Devon, was arrested by police before later appearing in court on Monday, March 8 this year. She was given a 12-month community order and disqualified from keeping dogs for three years, as well as fined £80 and ordered to pay £200 costs and a £32 victim surcharge.

Bella, then aged 10, was looked after by staff at Radcliffe Animal Centre in Nottingham and she spent 15 months recuperating from her ordeal in RSPCA care.

The 11-year-old canine has now been given a happy ending after finding her new forever home with retired couple Maggie Mellish and Charlie Douglas, who live in a village in South Derbyshire.

The couple went to enjoy some time with their new pet at the animal centre which cared for her before Bella moved in with them earlier this month. Bella’s rescuers Jane Harper, and her friend Joanne Bellamy, were also invited to witness the happy occasion.

Jane gets bella to safety. | Photo: RSPCA

Bella’s rescuers Jane Harper and Joanne Bellamy. | Photo: RSPCA

Maggie said: “We as a family, have three Shepherd-type dogs over the last 30 years and really love them. We lost our rescue dog Tia/Luna two years ago and my daughter’s dog Flame, this year. We did really miss them.

“Then we saw Bella’s story in the press a few weeks ago and the fact she needed a home so my daughter, Clare Lusher, encouraged us to apply for her.

“We know she will need regular vet appointments and are willing to finance those. We know she is in her older years but we just want to offer her a loving home she so deserves after all she has been through.

“We are both retired so she will have our company constantly which is what she really needs and it will be great for us too.”

Bella chasing a ball. | Photo: RSPCA

Bella at Christmas in 2020. | Photo: RSPCA

Charlie added: “We were horrified by what happened to Bella and when we came to see her we realised what a great personality she has and she really is perfect for us.”

Jane, who freed Bella from the rock in the river, said: “It is quite emotional seeing Bella as it brings back memories of that terrible day but we are thrilled to see how she has been transformed by staff here at the RSPCA.

“She looks like a different dog – her coat is beautiful and she looks so happy and full of life. It is great to see how she has been rehabilitated and that she is now going to spend the rest of her days at a loving home. It was so nice to meet Bella’s new owners and we have said we will keep in touch.”

Bella on arrival at the Radcliffe Animal Centre. | Photo: RSPCA

Bella with animal care assistant Sophie Major. | Photo: RSPCA

Bella and Ella Carpenter. | Photo: RSPCA

Ella Carpenter, manager at Radcliffe Animal Centre, said: “This is the perfect happy ending to a story which started off so sad and there were real doubts if Bella could pull through after her terrible ordeal.

“At times we thought she just wouldn’t make it, with her age and underlying health conditions all against her. But Bella has fought every day, showing enviable strength and courage, not wanting to give up her fight to recover.

“Our animal care assistant Sophie Major has so worked so hard, as have the rest of the team, and given so much love to Bella to help her and I know she is going to be missed.

“But we know Bella will now be able to live out the rest of her life with the love and respect that she has always deserved.

“Maggie and Charlie really are perfect with their experience of this breed and they are aware of the challenges of her care as an elderly dog but are happy to take her in for however long she has left.

“They have a large secure garden which Bella needs as she does not like to be around other dogs and they have plenty of time and love to give her.”

Update: National Rail said at around 12pm that all lines have reopened through Newark North Gate, but disruption is expected until 4pm.


A person was hit by a train in Newark and emergency services are dealing with the incident while all lines are blocked in the surrounding area.

Trains are currently unable to run through Newark North Gate and major disruption is expected until approximately 1pm on Thursday, March 11.

LNER is advising customers not to travel on Thursday where possible. Trains may be cancelled and journey times may be extended by up to 90 minutes.

LNER said that customers may use their ticket on the following operators’ service:

  • Avanti West Coast between Manchester Piccadilly and Glasgow Central / Edinburgh
  • CrossCountry between Leeds / York and Edinburgh
  • TransPennine Express between Edinburgh, Manchester, Leeds and York
  • East Midlands Railway services between London St Pancras International and Sheffield / Leeds
  • Thameslink services between London Kings Cross and Peterborough

Customers can also defer travel from Thursday and choose to use their tickets on Friday, March 12 instead, but they must make a seat reservation.

LNER said: “We’re doing everything we can to get our services up and running again for those who need them most. We’re sorry for the inconvenience this has caused you today.”

A spokesperson for British Transport Police said: “British Transport Police were called to the line near Newark North Gate railway station at 9.18am following reports of a casualty on the tracks.

“Paramedics also attended, however sadly a person has been pronounced dead at the scene.

“Officers are currently working to identify the person and establish the full circumstances behind their death.”

See the latest information about the disruption here.

A woman who pleaded guilty to attempting to drown a dog in the River Trent near Lincoln has been fined, but avoided a jail sentence.

Bella the Belgian Shepherd’s lead was attached to a carrier bag tied to a large rock. The dog was rescued by passer-by Jane Harper after she was discovered struggling and submerged in the water near Long Lane in Farndon near Newark on January 6, 2020.

The owner of the dog Charlene Latham, 31, of St Brannocks Road, Ilfracombe in Devon, was arrested by police. She appeared in court on Monday, March 8 and was given a 12-month community order, as well as being disqualified from keeping dogs for three years.

Jane manages to get Bella onto a large stone. | Photo: RSPCA

Jane Harpur rescuing Bella. | Photo: RSPCA

Jane gets bella to safety. | Photo: RSPCA

Latham was also fined £80, was ordered to pay £200 costs and a £32 victim surcharge.

Leigh Johnson, 32, had denied the same charge at a previous court appearance and the case against him was discontinued.

Passer-by Jane Harper managed to free the struggling animal before the matter was reported to Nottinghamshire Police, who took the dog to a local vet.

The vet said had she not been treated when she was, then Bella would have died.

Locals bring towels to wrap shivering Bella in. | Photo: RSPCA

Bella on arrival at the Radcliffe Animal Centre. | Photo: RSPCA

Jane Harper and Joanne Bellamy reunited with Bella at RSPCA centre. | Photo: RSPCA

After the ordeal, Bella was rushed for emergency veterinary treatment and it was there that Bella’s microchip was found. It was registered in 2010 and gave her name and her owner’s details.

Bella was transferred into the the care of the RSPCA Radcliffe Animal Centre in Nottingham. Police and the RSPCA then launched an investigation.

Bella, aged 11, has remained at the centre since as she has complex veterinary needs. She has been completely transformed from the dog who almost didn’t make it to the bouncy elderly girl she is now.

Bella is now a completely transformed dog. | Photo: RSPCA

Bella at Christmas in 2020. | Photo: RSPCA

Bella and Ella Carpenter. | Photo: RSPCA

Ella Carpenter, manager at Radcliffe Animal Centre said after the case that they are now desperate to find Bella a loving new home.

The home would need to be in the vicinity of the Radcliffe Centre.

Ella said: “We are both proud and privileged to have cared for Bella over the past fourteen months.

“At times we thought she just wouldn’t make it, with her age and underlying health conditions all against her. But Bella has fought every day, showing enviable strength and courage, not wanting to give up her fight to recover.

“We hope that she will now be able to live out the rest of her life with the love and respect that she has always deserved and are looking for that special forever home for Bella.”

Bella chasing a ball. | Photo: RSPCA

Bella and animal care assistant Sophie Major. | Photo: RSPCA

The incident also prompted over 165,000 people to call for tougher sentences and justice for Bella.

Inspector Heather Sutton, District Commander for Newark and Sherwood at Nottinghamshire Police, said: “Britain is undoubtedly a nation of animal lovers, which has been demonstrated by the overwhelming support we have received from members of the public to help Bella and assist our officers with their investigation into this particularly sad case.

“Animal cruelty investigations can often be very complex and we have worked closely with the RSPCA throughout.

“I would like to thank the public for their support, which has meant that we were able to make arrests and charges following the investigation.”

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