Dog plunges 12ft down manhole

Lucky: Margaret Holland with dog Lucy which was rescued by Tony Gillespie

Lucky: Margaret Holland with dog Lucy which was rescued by Tony Gillespie

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A dog was left stranded 12ft underground for more than four hours in Leyland after metal thieves stole a manhole cover.

Owner Margaret Holland frantically searched for eight-year-old Lucy, a German Shepherd and Labrador cross, after she went missing during her morning walk.

Part-time cleaner Margaret, 64, suddenly thought to check down the manholes at the Leyland Vehicle Test Track, after previously noticing a number were missing.

She thanked neighbour Tony Gillespie, 57, who climbed down the drain to rescue muddy Lucy on Wednesday afternoon but warned a child could be killed by the unmarked holes.

She said: “They’re not safe. Somebody’s taken the covers off those manholes. That could have been a child.”

The drama unfolded when mother-of-four Margaret, of Robin Hey in Moss Side, Leyland, took Lucy out for a walk shortly after 9am.

She said she took a different route to usual and, as she turned for home, realised Lucy had gone.

She said: “I kept shouting and shouting but she didn’t bark or anything. I was frantic.”

Margaret contacted the council dog warden to report Lucy missing before the search ended shortly before 2pm. Lucy was uninjured despite her ordeal.

The widowed grandmother-of-seven said: “I want to thank Tony for everything he’s done for me. I don’t know what I would have done.”

Gardener Tony said he questioned a man who he saw in the area with a manhole cover about a year ago.

He made some signs which he put up on the site which read: “To the person who is taking the manhole covers, a child is going to get killed or a dog is going to fall down and get killed or a mountain biker. You’ve been warned.”

He said: “It was a 12ft shaft. If a kid had fallen down there and bumped his head, he’d have been dead. A kid’s going to get killed there one day. It is an accident waiting to happen.

“The mud was just under a metre deep. Thank god it is a big dog otherwise it would have just gone under. It must have gone down head first.

“There were steps going in so I had to climb down and lift it out. I got a good, good grip on it and managed to get the collar on.”

Tony, who owns a Brittany Spaniel called Buster, said he believed around 100 covers had gone missing in the area and said: “Every 25 yards there’s one missing. He is obviously selling them for scrap.”