A former English soldier and his girlfriend tore apart a rented house causing more than £5,000 of damage – to look for a rat she claimed to have seen.

Gary Taylor, 42, ripped up an entire ground floor and pulled out a fireplace on orders of terrified Leanne Fay, a court heard. The 38-year-old mother-of-one had a phobia of rats and believed there was a nest somewhere in her mid-terrace home.

The drunken rat hunt got ‘completely out of hand’ and £5,500 of damage was caused to the property, on Ashton Street in Rochdale.

The bizarre incident had ‘all the hallmarks of an intoxicated escapade’, a judge said. Bolton Crown Court heard that even the concrete foundation on the cellar floor was smashed up. Taylor, of Wellith Lane, Rochdale, earlier pleaded guilty to criminal damage.

He was jailed for three months for the damage and a consecutive month for failing to answer bail before the court hearing. Fay, who now lives with her teenage daughter on Wells Street, Rochdale, also pleaded guilty to criminal damage. She was handed a three-month sentence, suspended for a year, and ordered to carry out 100 hours of unpaid work.

Taylor, who now works as an HGV?driver, had come home from a drunken evening on April 15 when Fay asked him to find the rat nest. David Clarke, prosecuting, told the court: “There was extensive damage. The floorboards and lino were pulled up completely from downstairs. The fireplace was ripped out. The concrete flooring under the lino was smashed up. Even the cellar flooring was pulled up. It’s most peculiar.” Judge William Morris was told the pair were not charged with burglary because nothing was stolen, and there was no suggestion the fireplace or floorboards were to be sold on.

James Paterson, defending Fay, said his client apologised to the landlord, but hunting the rats got ‘completely out of hand’. Mr Paterson added Fay ‘may have been under the influence of amphetamines’.

Judge Morris told the defendants: “This is the most extraordinary case. I have seen the photographs of the extensive and deliberate damage which must have taken some hours of effort to achieve in this house. It’s very hard to understand why the pair of you embarked on this conduct. The explanation that is given is as extraordinary as the damage you caused.”

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