A woman in Manchester, England was found guilty of using her dog to attack an Asian shopkeeper in a racially-charged dispute that escalated after a store worker accused her of shoplifting.
Sonya Wadsworth, 41, deliberately let her Staffordshire Terrier “Tyson” off the leash to bite Varun Ditta, also known as “Jimmy,” at his Around A Pound Plus grocery store in Wythenshawe around 3 p.m. on Aug. 28, 2018, the Manchester Magistrates’ Court reportedly heard.
The incident reportedly started when Ditta’s colleague, Mansoor Wahid, who goes by the nickname “Max,” called Wadsworth out for shoplifting children’s sweets into her coat pocket.
“When I heard this I came toward them and asked what [had] happened, but she was using abusive language to Max,” Ditta said, according to the Manchester Evening News. “She was saying ‘You are a P***. What are you doing here? Go back to your own country.’”
According to Ditta, Wahid gave Wadsworth the choice to pay or return the sweets, but she was “being aggressive.” Wahid then threatened to call the police if she takes them without paying.
Wadsworth eventually took the “lollies” out of her pocket and threw them onto the floor. However, the situation was just about to get worse.
“She began shouting ‘Go back where you came from — where do you come from?’ She was being argumentative and kept saying ‘You people,’” Wahid recalled.
“I followed her to the door but she grabbed me by the collar. Her aim was to drag me out of the shop because the dog was there and I was scared of the dog.”
Wahid went out of the store and picked up basket to protect himself from what he sensed was an impending attack. Ditta stepped outside as well.
“She was swearing ‘P*** bastard’ directed at Jimmy,” Wahid said. “I warned Jimmy to be careful of the dog, but then she released the dog and it came towards Jimmy.”
Tyson, who is believed to have passed since the incident last year, attacked and bit Ditta on his left thigh.
“This was a dangerous dog and it was making me and Max feel that it was about to attack,” Ditta said. “Sonya was laughing and encouraging the dog to bite me.”
According to Ditta, the dog had always been “very aggressive,” barking at customers coming into his store.
“I think the dog was trained and letting it go and then pulling it back by the lead then letting it go again meant ‘Go and bite him,’” he said. “She went and got her dog from outside the shop and let him go aggressive towards me and I took that as her saying to it ‘Go and attack.’”
Wadsworth, who was intoxicated, laughed as Tyson mauled the shopkeeper.
“She was laughing, ‘Haha, you can’t do anything to me, my dog will bite you — P*** go home,’” Ditta recalled her as saying.
He added, “I was just thinking, ‘Why is she doing this?’ It made me upset and fearful.”
Wadsworth, who was recently convicted of racially aggravated common assault, racially aggravated harassment and having a dog dangerously out of control, denied all allegations.
“I go every day to that shop and support my local businesses but the owner has never liked me,” she said, according to the Daily Mail. “I’m always polite and courteous and I’ve never shoplifted a day in my life.”
According to Wadsworth, she had been visiting Ditta’s shop for two years.
“On that day I go in and the shopkeeper says ‘I don’t like you. I don’t like your dog. I don’t serve you. I don’t like you at all’ and I said, ‘Well I don’t particularly like you either but you don’t need to like customers, you just take their money.’”
Wadsworth claimed that she actually tried to pay for the sweets.
“I’d already put the toffees in my pocket by that time and tried to hand them a tenner. I even said ‘Okay look, just take the tenner and I will come back to get change later,’ but he just kept saying no.”
She added, “I was being diplomatic. I’ve been going there for two years. This was embarrassing for me as well and people were in the shop. I was very resentful at being treated like this and I picked up the toffees and threw them.”
Things took a violent turn when Wahid grabbed and shoved her out the door, Wadsworth said.
”Max then grabbed me really strongly and shoved me out the door with quite a lot of force and he’s picked up a mop handle and started hitting me. I got my dog from outside and it was getting increasingly defensive,” she said.
“I mean, he’s just seen his mummy assaulted but Max picked up a washing basket and raised it above his head and they booted my dog hard twice,” she added. “I thought I pulled him back just in time but now I realise he must’ve bitten Jimmy.”
Wadsworth maintained that she is a “diplomatic” and “responsible” citizen. She denied using racist language and training Tyson to attack people.
“My dog was really scared and anxious though that’s how all dogs would react,” she said. “I’ve taught my dog right and I was actually proud of him that he initially tried to stop himself reacting. They’ve come towards him and he’s been defensive, not aggressive.”
She added, “They are all liars. I was forced into this situation. I did not use my dog as a weapon — my dog was just scared at seeing his mummy assaulted.”
Wadsworth will return to court for her sentencing later this month.