Man who nailed possum to tree to serve jail time
Thursday, 8 May 2014
In a case that SPCA New Zealand CEO Ric Odom described as “genuinely disturbing”, a Whangarei possum trapper who videoed himself torturing several possums to death was today sentenced to prison.
Joshua Godfrey Aidan Heka, 28, was convicted today in the Whangarei District Court on 10 counts of wilfully ill-treating an animal with the result that the animal died, plus two counts of possessing objectionable material. He was sentenced to 2 years and 4 months in prison.
On 1 January 2014, the Police were called to Heka’s address in Whangarei on an unrelated matter. While at the address, Police were advised of some disturbing videos on Heka’s iPod by another member of the household. The videos were taken between June 2013 and November 2013, and showed Heka mutilating and taunting a series of possums before decapitating them or bludgeoning them to death.
In one series of videos, Heka films a possum whose tail he has nailed to a tree. As he approaches the possum it desperately tries to climb the tree to escape and begins to scream. The next video shows the same possum with its left arm pinned to the tree by the nail, which Heka hammers further into the tree while the possum screams. The next video shows the same possum with its left shoulder and left leg stapled to the tree by u-shaped nails. The possum continues to scream as Heka asks, “What's wrong possum? Is it a bit sore?” and hammers the staples further in. Heka then hits the possum’s head several times with the hammer.
In another video, Heka hacks the limbs off a female possum and then mocks her as she tries but fails to flee. He then chops the possum’s head off and dangles it in front of the camera lens while saying, “What up girl? Smile, smile, smile bitch! Smile!” In yet another video, Heka uses a hammer to break another possum’s legs then holds its face up to the camera and asks, “Does that f**king hurt? Does it? What? I can’t hear you.” The possum is clearly alive throughout. Heka then bashes the possum in the head with the hammer before stomping on its head aggressively several times.
“Heka’s crimes are genuinely disturbing and some of the worst offending we’ve seen,” says Ric Odom, CEO of SPCA New Zealand. “Unfortunately, we see similar acts of ‘recreational cruelty’ all too often in New Zealand and appeal to the public to bring such acts to the attention of the Police or the SPCA.
“We agree with the Police that people should receive prison sentences for this kind of offending because of the well-documented links between animal and human abuse. Basically, people who abuse animals are also very likely to abuse people, so a custodial sentence is fully justified. We hope that such offenders also receive the professional help that they clearly need.
“This case also raises issues around the treatment in New Zealand of so-called pest animals, such as possums. Although possums do significant damage to our forests and it is legal to hunt, trap, and kill them, it is still an offence to ill-treat them. If you kill them, you must do so humanely and avoid inflicting unnecessary suffering on them. All animals are sentient living things that feel pain and distress – they are not simply objects that we can do with as we please.
“Despite our opposition to the ill-treatment of animals, the RNZSPCA acknowledges that the humane control of the possum population is a necessary activity designed to preserve our native forests and animals.”