How Princess the growling Staffordshire bull terrier saved sleeping owner from £15k contract killer

A stock image of a Staffordshire bull terrier, the same dog that saved Tracy Devonshire's life, at a rescue centre.
Credit: PA
A stock image of a Staffordshire bull terrier, the same dog that saved Tracy Devonshire's life, at a rescue centre. Credit: PA

A woman who had been targeted by a contract killer was saved from being murdered after her dog started growling at the would-be hitman.

Tracy Devonshire, 43, was the intended victim of a fatal drug overdose but was rescued when her dog, a Staffordshire bull terrier called Princess, woke her with “the deepest, longest growl” she had ever heard, a court was told.

She woke to find Trefor Jones, 38, standing over her in her Hertfordshire flat, who tried to explain himself by saying: “I wanted to give your dog a kiss.”

Jones, of Hampshire, and Ms Devonshire's ex Mukhtar Lail, of Stotfold in Bedfordshire, were convicted at St Albans Crown Court of conspiracy to commit murder between 27 December 2021 and 14 January last year.

Lail had offered Jones £15,000 to kill his ex-partner by giving her a fatal overdose of heroin and to make it look like an accident, the court was told.

He gave Jones heroin and cocaine to take to Ms Devonshire's flat in Hitchin in Hertfordshire.

On the night he tried to kill her, the pair took cocaine together before Ms Devonshire, who was also on sedatives, fell asleep on the sofa.

But the next day, Jones had a change of heart about his mission, telling her: “I am here to kill you.”

A jury at St Albans Crown Court found both men guilty of conspiracy to commit murder. Credit: PA

After spending time with her he had realised she was not such a bad person, the court was told, and Ms Devonshire called the police.

Prosecutor Nathan Rasiah KC said Jones, from Southsea near Portsmouth, had been offered the fee to kill Ms Devonshire by Lail, who had been in an abusive relationship with her in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

Lail, 53, was said to have ordered the killing after his former partner abused him in front of his young daughter in Letchworth.

The prosecutor said: “This case is about a plot to kill. Lail would pay Jones to kill her by giving her a fatal dose of heroin.

“For years they were in a relationship. It was an abusive relationship. Lail dealt in Class A drugs and she was addicted to heroin.”

Lail was also convicted of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.

The prosecutor added that Lail had tried to stop Devonshire bringing the case to court by sending men to her flat, and also offering her money - allegations he denied.

Money, heroin and cocaine were seized from Lail's house, and he answered "no comment" in police interviews after he was arrested.

Judge Richard Foster will sentence them at a later date.

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