‘Bonkers’ neighbour poisons dogs over barking dispute
A man at the centre of a high-profile attempt to poison two pet dogs belonging to a respected Hinchinbrook family has appeared in court to claim that he was the victim.
Christopher Gary Downing, 62, pleaded guilty to laying bait - dog food mixed with rat poison - with the intention of injuring the beloved animals at the Halifax home on July 15 when he appeared in the Ingham Magistrates Court this morning.
The charge carries a maximum punishment of a year in jail.
Police prosecutor Sergeant John Moran said the charge was the result of a long-standing feud with a neighbour over unproven allegations that the dogs' barking was too loud.
Sgt Moran said the informant, a respected Hinchinbrook teacher, received a phone call at work from the Hinchinbrook Shire Council informing him that there had been a complaint that his dogs were wandering the streets.
He said the informant called a friend in Halifax who visited the property and discovered an open front door and saw one of the dogs chewing on a "meaty-like substance" with "what appeared to be green pieces of rat poison all the way through it".
Sgt Moran said the victim subsequently sourced CCTV footage from a nearby shop that showed a person approaching his home and "makes a throwing action toward the door and then walks away".
"The male person, as he walks across the street, removes what appears to be a white-coloured glove from his left hand and moves out of the camera's vision," Sgt Moran said.
He said that police executed a search warrant at Downing's home on July 20, recovering clothing that matched the clothing worn by the man in the CCTV footage and an opened container of Ratsack rat poison.
He said Downing, however, maintained his innocence, saying he had approached the property to shoo the dogs back inside the property before walking to the Halifax Homebrew and Tackle shop.
Sgt Moran said police then obtained CCTV footage from the fishing store, which showed the accused walking toward the store and discarding a rubber glove, which was later recovered and found to be coated in a meat-like residue.
He said police again confronted Downing on July 26 and during a lengthy police interview, he confessed to the crime, but believed the amount of rat bait would not kill the pets and that he only wanted to "scare the informant into doing something about the dogs".
"The defendant stated that he undertook the act as a fit of desperation as he wanted the dogs to stop barking and that he'd been shitting himself ever since he committed the offence," he said
Downing's defence lawyer Darren Robinson said his client, a married man with two children, was well regarded in the community, providing Magistrate Scott Luxton with seven character references and two psychiatric reports.
Mr Robinson said the dispute over the alleged barking had been running for six months and "even today is still not resolved".
"So something had to give and it was my client," he said.
"It's not that he is depressed, it is actually in the report, that sleep deprivation has driven him bonkers, he has attempted to sound-proof his room with no success, he's got music that plays to no success, he works shift work. The problem's just not fixed, it's an ongoing issue with council.
"He feels useless, and helpless and he just needs this situation resolved ... he most certainly could have handled it better but this is what a person does when they are broken."
He said his client was preparing to sell his house.
Magistrate Luxton said Downing's actions were potentially "very cruel", considering the consequences for the pets, but were out of character.
Downing was fined $1000 and no conviction was recorded.
Originally published as 'Bonkers' neighbour poisons dogs over barking dispute