Australian builder who used a butcher’s knife to kill six miniature horses in South Australia as revenge on clients who owed him money has had his bail revoked.
Michael Martin John O’Connell, 50, who owns Middleton Developments south of Adelaide, was taken into custody ahead of sentencing next month.
Clients Melvyn and Julie Jackson owed O’Connell a $37,000 final payment for about $200,000 worth of renovations carried out by his company.
Prosecutor Peter Cannell said after getting drunk at a Christmas party last year for his employees and subcontractors, O’Connell drove about an hour to the Jacksons’ horse stud at Clayton Bay and slit the throats of six miniature horses.
“The accused has entered through a locked gate … and then proceeded to one by one cut the throats of those six miniature horses,” Mr Cannell said.
“The horses were discovered deceased the following day by an employee.
“His intention was to make the victim Julie Jackson pay … get the victim somewhere where it would hurt.”
O’Connell later disposed of the butcher’s knife and blood-stained seat covers from his car at sea.
The court heard O’Connell made frank admissions about his actions when police spoke to him about the crime a week later.
A civil damages settlement had since been reached between O’Connell and the Jackson family worth about $60,000.
Ms Jackson read a victim impact statement in court, in which she said the “blood-fuelled massacre” had sent her family’s life into turmoil.
“I have lost more than six miniature horses, I have lost myself,” Ms Jackson said.
“I wish everyday for a different outcome for my babies.
“How could anyone expect a house renovation to result in the death of six horses.
“How could a builder plot and plan such a callous attack and carry it out?
“This has not just tortured me, it has tortured my family.
“My life is forever impacted and my heart forever broken.”
Mr Jackson told the court when he arrived at the stables he was confronted by blood-splattered walls.
“It was a scene that filled me with horror and heartbreak,” Mr Jackson said.
“They were part of our family in the same way that our children are.
“They can never be replaced. We have not used those stables since that night.”
Court heard O’Connell snapped
“He simply snapped and he and the victim have been paying for this ever since,” Mr Healy said.
“At no time did my client try to excuse his conduct.”
Mr Healy described the married father of four as a respected member of the local community whose actions were bizarre.
He said at the time of the crime he had building contracts worth about $4 million.
He said about half of his staff had also left and a custodial sentence would see his business collapse.
But Judge Paul Cuthbertson questioned whether it was already too late for O’Connell’s business.
“I would have thought his business is gone already, who would want to deal with him?” Judge Cuthbertson said.
O’Connell pleaded guilty to aggravated serious criminal trespass, which carried a maximum penalty of 20 years in jail.
He also admitted to property damage for killing the horses, which attracts a term of up to 10 years.
O’Connell’s lawyer urged the judge to suspend any prison sentence.
But the prosecution called for a custodial sentence because of the seriousness of the offending.