Amateur Ornithologist Guns Down Hartley with an Air Rifle, Feigns Remorse, and Then Cheats Justice by Begging and Lying
"...the defendant explained he feeds wild birds that come to his garden and after seeing a cat chasing the birds, he just lost it and didn't realize it was his neighbor's cat."
-- Jonathan Eales of the RSPCA
Another amateur ornithologist has gotten away scot-free with killing a cat. The latest such miscreant to cheat justice is sixty-eight-year-old retired construction worker Eric Reeves of Bradenham Hall Cottages in Bradenham, eight kilometers southwest of East Dereham in Norfolk. (See photo of him above.)
On August 8th, he used an air rifle to kill a five-month-old brown and white cat named Hartley that belonged to his neighbor, Nicholas Townley. Even more tragically, Townley only had adopted Hartley a few weeks previously in July. (See photo of him below.)
After Reeves confessed to Townley that he had killed Hartley, the RSPCA was called in to investigate. "...the defendant explained he feeds wild birds that come to his garden and after seeing a cat chasing the birds, he just lost it and didn't realize it was his neighbor's cat," Jonathan Eales, who prosecuted the case for the RSPCA, told King's Lynn Magistrates' Court on October 26th according to a report in the Dereham Times on the same date. (See "Bradenham Resident Shot an Ex-Neighbor's Pet Because It Was Chasing Birds in His Garden, Court Hears.")
Speaking through his mouthpiece, Ian Graham, Reeves then threw himself on the mercy of the court. "He accepts he had the air rifle, that he fired the shot and that only he was responsible for the animal's death," Graham told the judges according to the account in the Dereham Times. "He has shown a lot of remorse and is horrified by the pain the cat suffered. He is a bird lover and likes to spend his money on bird feed."
In order to make doubly sure that his client got away with his heinous crime, Graham did not hesitate to give the truth a good sound bashing. "He used to have a cat himself," he caroled to the judges. "He has no bad attitude toward animals or cats and offered to pay the vet bill but that offer was refused."
All of Graham's groveling and outrageous lies on behalf of his client worked on the judges like a charm bracelet because in the end they let off Reeves with one-hundred-hours of community service and £400 in court costs. So, in effect, the magistrates in King's Lynn have decreed that the lives of cats are without value and they as a consequence can be mercilessly gunned down with impunity.
Even in defeat the RSPCA's spin doctor, Dave Padmore, would have the public to believe that his organization had prevailed and that the lives of cats are now more secure than before. "This sends out a clear message that it is unacceptable to go around shooting animals," he declared, supposedly with a straight face, to the Daily Mail on October 28th. (See "Pensioner Kills Neighbor's Cat with Air Rifle as It Was Chasing Birds Away.")
A day earlier on October 27th Padmore had feebly attempted to reassure the readers of The Telegraph that his organization was poised to remain vigilant. "The RSPCA will continue to investigate incidents of this nature and where possible will always seek to bring a prosecution," he pledged. (See "Pensioner Shot Neighbor's Cat with Air Rifle.")
Despite Padmore's best effort to put a good face on a miserable situation it is extremely unlikely that very many cat owners will feel any better in knowing that the RSPCA is standing by to mount impotent prosecutions and to mouth platitudes that stand the truth on its head every time that it takes a drubbing in court. That is especially true in this case because if ever there was a cat-hating devil who deserved to put away for the remainder of his days on this earth it is Reeves.
First of all, since he freely admitted to Townley that he shot Hartley because he erroneously believed him to be a feral, Reeves obviously thinks that it is permissible to gun down cats that do not have owners. Carried to its logical conclusion, Reeves sans doute feels that he is entitled to shoot all cats because absolutely no one can tell the difference between a domesticated and an unsocialized cat au premier coup d'oeil. Almost as shockingly, there is nothing in press reports to indicate that the RSPCA even challenged him on this vitally important point.
Secondly, the only conceivable reason that a sixty-eight-year-old bird enthusiast would have in his possession an air gun would be to shoot cats. It accordingly is highly probable that Reeves has maimed and killed countless other felines over the years.
With cat-killers there never seems to be any middle ground. All of them are long-term serial killers who never will mend their evil ways. Reeves certainly will be more careful from now on but he is destined to continue killing cats. (See Cat Defender posts of August 7, 2008 and January 6, 2012 entitled, respectively, "Crime Pays! Having Made Fools Out of Galveston Prosecutors, Serial Cat Killer James Munn Stevenson Is Now a Hero and Laughing All the Way to the Bank" and "Nico Dauphiné Is Let Off with an Insultingly Lenient $100 Fine in a Show Trial That Was Fixed from the Very Beginning.")
That is not any secret and the RSPCA, courts, and law enforcement community most assuredly are cognizant of that reality. If they were dealing with either homicidal maniacs or pedophiles, the legal establishment would not be nearly so eager to turn them loose; it is only cat killers that enjoy the protection of the establishment.
Despite Reeves's air gun attack, Hartley somehow might have pulled through if he had not been victimized by yet still another case of staggering veterinary incompetence. Although wounded, he was able to make it home on his own but when Townley took him to an unidentified practitioner the only thing that he received in return for his trouble was a recitation of the obvious.
Specifically, the veterinarian diagnosed Hartley to have suffered a puncture wound to his right side that could have been caused by either a fall or an air gun pellet. Since Townley, obviously naïve to the machinations of cat-haters, did not believe that Hartley had been attacked, the veterinarian prescribed antibiotics and merrily sent the both of them on their way. Hartley died from the untreated wound at 6:45 a.m. the following day.
A post-mortem x-ray later confirmed that Hartley had been shot in his intestines with an air rifle. (See photo directly below.)
It simply boggles the mind that a veterinarian called upon to treat a cat bleeding from a wound in its side would not order an x-ray and, if advisable, remove the pellet. Sadly, veterinary incompetence appears to be the rule rather than the exception.
For example, in early July of 2010 a cat named Molly from Charford in Bromsgrove, Worcester, lost her left eye because, in part, the attending veterinarian was unable to tell the difference between a wound inflicted by a ball bearing gun and a common eye infection. As unbelievable as it may sound, that was after two examinations and the removal of the eye itself! (See Cat Defender post of July 19, 2010 entitled "Molly Loses an Eye to an Assailant with a Ball Bearing Gun Only Later to Be Victimized by an Incompetent Veterinarian.")
Moreover, the incompetence demonstrated by the practitioner who treated Hartley is all the more inexcusable in that it is widely known that attacks upon cats by individuals armed with air guns have reached epidemic proportions all across England. (See Cat Defender post of May 7, 2007 entitled "British Punks Are Having a Field Day Maiming Cats with Air Guns but the Peelers Continue to Look the Other Way.")
Heartbroken at the death of his beloved cat and, without a doubt, thoroughly disgusted by the total lack of anything remotely resembling justice that was meted out by the sorry excuses for judges who sit on King's Lynn Magistrates' Court, Townley has pulled up stakes and relocated to parts unknown. It nevertheless might be worthwhile for him to consider attempting to hold Reeves accountable in civil court.
That is precisely what Janeen Bubien of Vista, California, was able to accomplish back in 2007 after then forty-seven-year-old Robert Eugene Brunner shot and killed her beloved cat, Bill, with a bow and arrow. Specifically, a civil court awarded her $2,500 in damages plus an additional $5,000 in order to help her relocate elsewhere. (See Cat Defender posts of August 14, 2007 and September 24, 2007 entitled, respectively,"Grieving Owner Seeks Justice for Orange Tabby Named Bill That Was Hunted Down and Savagely Killed with a Bow and Arrow" and "California Man Who Slew His Neighbor's Cat with a Bow and Arrow Is Sentenced to Three Years in Jail.")
On July 11th of last year, amateur ornithologist Ernst Bernhard K. likewise was ordered by a civil court in München to pay Andreas O. €500 in damages for torturing and killing his cat, Rocco. (See Cat Defender posts of January 19, 2011, August 8, 2011, and August 17, 2011 entitled, respectively, "Bird Lover in München Illegally Traps Rocco and Then Methodically Tortures Him to Death with Water and Pepper Spray over an Eleven-Day Period," "Ernst K.'s Trial for Kidnapping, Torturing, and Murdering Rocco Nears Its Climax in a München Courtroom," and "Ernst K. Walks Away Smelling Like a Rose as Both the Prosecutor and Judge Turn His Trial for Killing Rocco into a Lovefest for a Sadistic Cat Killer.")
Even Susan McGee of Hampton, New Hampshire, was able to scare $3,000 out of Jeffrey Lee Eiras just by threatening to sue him in civil court after he adroitly evaded justice for shotgunning to death her beloved cat, Molly, on November 8, 2009. (See Cat Defender post of June 30, 2011 entitled "No Cat Is Safe Any Longer in New Hampshire Resort Town after a Local Court Sets Free Molly's Shotgun Murderer with a Trivial $200 Fine.")
Despite Bubien's, Andreas O.'s, and McGee's successes, holding cat killers accountable in civil court is seldom easy and the overwhelmingly majority of these detestable and cowardly murderers escape without being forced to part with any of their precious shekels. The long odds have not, however, deterred devoted cat-lover Kevin Kimes from the East Bay city of Brentwood from seeking justice for his murdered cat, Pumkin. (See photo of him below.)
On October 28, 2005, Pumkin was left paralyzed in his back legs and tail after he was shot with an air gun while pussyfooting across a backyard fence. Up until his death in November of 2009, Kimes doled out $36,000 in veterinary care for Pumkin who, as a consequence, eventually was able to stand up again and to take ten to twenty steps at a time. Despite that progress, his last years no doubt were filled with excruciating pain and unremitting suffering.
In the aftermath of the attack suspicion immediately fell upon Kimes's neighbors from Hell, Joseph Grosser and his son, Charles, who it is alleged previously had attacked Pumkin with a water gun in order to scare him away from a birdbath in their yard. It also is alleged that they owned at least one air gun at the time of the attack.
Initially, Judge Barbara Zuniga of the Contra Costa County Superior Court in Martinez ruled that even if Kimes were able to prove that it was indeed the Grossers who had shot Pumkin he would be limited to collecting damages equal to the cat's market value. For their part, the Grossers have maintained from the outset that Pumkin was "an adopted stray of very low economic value." C'est-à-dire, only birds have any value as far as they are concerned.
On May 31, 2011, the California Court of Appeal for the First District in San Francisco reversed Zuniga in a 3-0 decision. While the court freely acknowledged that cats are considered to be property under existing laws, it broke with precedent by ruling that a different standard applies to property that has a special value to its owner.
That certainly was the case with Kimes and the footloose stray who showed up on his doorstep in 2003. "I don't have kids, and my animals are my kids," he told the San Francisco Chronicle on June 1, 2011. (See "Brentwood Man Cleared to Sue over Cat's Shooting.")
The case now will go back to trial court where Kimes, should he prevail, will be eligible for compensatory damages equal to what he paid out in veterinary expenses. "In this case, plaintiff is not plucking a number out of the air for the sentimental value of damaged property; he seeks to present evidence of costs incurred for Pumkin's care and treatment by virtue of the shooting -- a 'rational way' of demonstrating a measure of damage apart from a cat's market value," Justice James Marchiano wrote for the court in Kevin Kimes v Charles Grosser. (The court's full opinion can be found at www.caselaw.findlaw.ca.)
The court left unsettled for the time being the issue of whether a cat owner can collect damages for the loss of companionship and emotional stress. If Kimes additionally should be able to prove that the Grossers deliberately shot Pumkin he would be entitled to punitive damages as well.
"The people that perpetuate these crimes against domesticated animals are going to have to pay," Kimes, who is employed as an engineer in the semiconductor industry, vowed to the Chronicle in the article cited supra. "Maybe, over time, people will start to think twice."
Nothing in this big, wide world ever will be able to bring back Pumkin, Rocco, Bill, Molly, and the thousands of other cats that are murdered by ornithologists, wildlife biologists, and other fiends each year. Nevertheless, cat-lovers all over the world are indebted to Kimes, Andreas O., Bubien, and McGee for their tenacity, spirit, and perseverance. They are doing what all the so-called cat protection groups should be doing if they were not, like the RSPCA, total phonies.
One way or another, these monsters who feel that they have a right to kill cats with impunity are going to be dealt with and severely. It is going to take a while, but hopefully sometime in the not too distant future the courts will be compelled to recognize cats as something more than mere property. Progress is slow, however, and as recently as 1857 the United States Supreme Court in Dred Scott v Sandford ludicrously declared that black-Americans were nothing more than mere property.
Photos: Matthew Usher of the Dereham Times (Reeves and x-ray), Albanpix and the Daily Mail (Hartley), and Kimes (Pumkin).