Mary Bale, 45, became a hate figure when she was caught on CCTV Surveillance Camera dropping the four-year-old cat tabby into the bin and closing the lid.
One inexplicable moment of cruelty when Mary Bale seized a cat and dropped it into a wheelie bin was punished with a modest £250 fine a few days ago. But the 45-year-old former bank worker may pay the price for her impulsive act for the rest of her life.
The “cat bin woman” from Coventry became reviled around the world, receiving abusive phone calls and death threats from as far afield as Australia, after what she described as a “split second of misjudgment” – which was captured on CCTV Surveillance Camera and uploaded to YouTube.
The question of why a middle-aged, respectable, apparently cat-loving woman would behave in such a way was not exactly answered in Coventry magistrates court today. But the court heard how Mary Bale was stressed and worried about her ill father, whom she would visit in hospital every day, regularly pausing on her walk home to stroke the four-year-old tabby cat called Lola and got caught on the CCTV Surveillance camera.
The footage from the CCTV Surveillance Camera reveled on the evening of 21 August, rather than just fondle the cat, she glanced around twice, opened the lid of a nearby green bin and put the cat inside before walking off briskly to her home three streets away.
The cat was trapped for 15 hours until her owners, Stephanie Andrews-Mann, 24, and husband Darryl, 26, found her the following morning. When they played back footage from a CCTV Surveillance Camera installed to deter vandals outside their home, they discovered the evidence and posted a clip lasting one minute 27 seconds on the internet, appealing for people to help identify the woman.
Nick Sutton, for the RSPCA, told the court from the footage of the CCTV Surveillance Camera it was obvious that her actions were deliberate. “She plainly looked to see if anyone was watching, which means she was clearly aware of the moral position she was in at that time,” he said.
Mary Bale’s solicitor, David Murray, said she had “very little recollection” of the incident. “The court will of course be concerned as to why this matter happened. Mary Bale has asked herself the same questions for the last two months, hourly,” he said.
“The cat was often on the wall seeking attention and she would stroke it. She cannot explain why her behaviour changed on this occasion.”
Later, in a statement, he added: “Despite a lengthy period of soul-searching, she cannot still explain her behaviour but she wishes to repeat her apology to the owners of Lola and bitterly regrets her actions.”
Mary Bale, who appeared close to tears in court and admitted a charge of causing unnecessary suffering to an animal, was spared the maximum penalty of six months in prison or a £20,000 fine as the district judge Caroline Goulborn acknowledged the “vilification” she had suffered.
The judge also accepted that Bale was in a “stressful situation” at the time, but said that was “no excuse for what you did”.
Mary Bale was fined £250 but was also ordered to pay a victim surcharge and costs, a total of £1,436.04. The RSPCA called it “a very fair decision”, Thanks to the CCTV Surveillance Camera Andrews and Darryl installed.
Banned from keeping or owning animals for the next five years, Bale may find her infamy takes as long to fade. After a period signed off work for depression, she has now resigned from her job, unable to face her colleagues again.
Mary Bale’s father died last Thursday and, according to her solicitor, she now simply wants to help her bereaved mother. She is unlikely to be left alone to do so, and any support may be as unwelcome as the hatred. As she fled a scrum of photographers outside court, an onlooker shouted: “I love you cat lady. Cat lady you are my hero.”