Bird-brain thugs torture seagull on social media
Pair could face prison for cruelty
Two thugs are facing jail after the kidnap and torture of a bird they dubbed 'Steven Seagull' in Larne last year.
Andrew Gildea (24), from Larne and Darren Kincaid (19), from north Belfast lured the hungry Black Headed Gull towards them using chips before bundling him into the footwell of Gildea's car.
After driving the panic-stricken bird around Larne and Belfast, parading him before friends and family, the pair took the gull to Gildea's house and live-streamed several videos of them torturing the bird on Facebook.
The footage caused uproar among animal lovers online and they were reported to police before handing themselves in.
Appearing at Laganside Courthouse in Belfast on Tuesday, both men entered guilty pleas to charges of causing unnecessary suffering to an animal and will return next month for sentencing.
Prosecution lawyers told the court several videos were uploaded to Facebook on June 11 last year over a two-hour span, detailing the bird's ordeal.
In the first video, Gildea can be seen grabbing the bird and trailing it into the car, capturing it in the passenger footwell and putting up the windows to prevent its escape.
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The court heard the bird was "flapping and clearly very distressed".
Subsequent videos show the bird standing on a toolbox in Gildea's garage being poked and teased and again clearly in distress before being trapped in a plastic box.
After surrendering to Larne police station, Gildea admitted enticing the bird with chips and livestreaming the videos, but said he never intended to cause harm to the creature.
Kincaid admitted being a passenger in the car and taking the bird to several addresses, but claimed to have experience handling pigeons and said he was aware of how to handle birds correctly.
He also told police he had drilled holes in the plastic box the bird was trapped in, so it would be able to breathe.
The court heard 'Steven Seagull' survived the ordeal after being released by Gildea and Kincaid, but district judge William McNallly was unimpressed with their antics.
Adjourning the matter so he could watch the video before sentencing the pair, he said: "I remember seeing a cat playing with a mouse and your behaviour reminds me of that cruelty.
"Playing with this bird is as cruel a thing as I have heard about in a long time. These are horrid videos with many views and I regard it as a very serious matter."
Despite a backlash over his treatment of the bird on social media, Gildea continued to joke about 'Steven Seagull' for months after the incident on his Facebook account, with his friends exchanging jokes, news stories and memes relating to seagulls.
However, he did also post a message on Facebook expressing regret for the incident.
He said: "I'm probably the most kind-hearted person and I would do anything for everyone. Everyone I know would vouch for me being a nice guy. However I'll only be ever remembered as the man who allegedly stole a seagull."
Gildea and Kincaid face up to six months in prison for the offence of causing unnecessary suffering to an animal and are due to be sentenced in March.
Caroline Morris (22), a receptionist at a veterinary surgery, saw the video when it was originally uploaded to Gildea's Facebook and was disgusted by the footage.
She said: "I think it was an absolute disgrace the way the poor seagull was handled.
"You could clearly see the bird was distressed and trying to get away. I'm surprised by the way Andrew grabbed the seagull it wasn't badly injured.
"The video was awful to watch. But for me the worst of it all is the fact he made such a huge joke of it between him and friends. And the fact that a lot of the people commenting seemed to be fine with this act of cruelty."