A DRUNKEN youth who stole a pet bunny from a children's nursery during a rabbit shooting expedition has been jailed.

Stephen McLeod left youngsters in tears and most of Peebles outraged after Crunchie disappeared - and has never been found.

The 19-year-old's partner in crime Craig Robertson, 20, was given 18 months probation.

The pair were armed with an air rifle on October 13 when they smashed up the rabbit hutch at Kingsmeadows Children's Nursery.

McLeod was jailed for a total of seven months at Selkirk Sheriff Court this week after admitting stealing the rabbit.

The court heard how the youngsters were left devastated when they arrived the following morning to find the hutch damaged and Crunchie missing.

They even organised searches in nearby woods to find their beloved pet.

Examination of CCTV from a neighbouring builder's yard spotted Crunchie being carried in the arms of the pair.

Robertson had bought the £150 air rifle the previous night with the intention of shooting rabbits.

When police asked him what happened to Crunchie, he told them: "I just had a fag and a chat with it before releasing the pet into the wild." Robertson's lawyer Joe Boyd said: "He realises the upset and distress this has caused. Not just to the children and the nursery but the community at large.

"He is extremely embarrassed and remorseful about it." Mr Boyd claimed Robertson had released the rabbit into the wild adding: "He wrongly thought a domestic animal could survive in the wild." He added that McLeod and Robertson - who both live in Peebles - had each paid £30 to the nursery for the damage to the hutch.

The court heard that the pair were so drunk that the air rifle was left lying on a roadway in Peebles and found by a woman walking her dog in the morning.

Robertson falsely reported to the police the air rifle had been stolen from his garden shed.

In addition to the rabbit theft, McLeod pleaded guilty to threatening a couple in the street on January 5 and demanding money from them and breaching a community service order.

At a previous hearing Sheriff Kevin Drummond was dubious about the version of events given in court saying: "By his own admission he bought a rifle to shoot rabbits, he then left his house on the night in question to go and do such a thing and is before me charged with stealing a pet rabbit. It doesn't look good does it?" McLeod was sentenced to 144 days for the vandalism to the hutch and theft of the rabbit, and seven months in a young offenders institution for threatening the couple in the street and demanding money.

Robertson was given 18 months probation for the rabbit theft.