Cat­tle thief jailed af­ter 11-year crime spree

Central and North Burnett Times - - RURAL UPDATE -

A QUEENS­LAND cat­tle farmer is be­hind bars and must pay a $237,000 fine af­ter “build­ing a small cat­tle em­pire” mostly through stolen stock. Ash­ley Arm­strong Thomson, 49, stole more than $134,000 worth of cat­tle from five neigh­bours in the Cun­na­mulla area, near the New SouthWales bor­der.

He would re­brand the cat­tle with his RY4 sym­bol and of­ten re­moved Na­tional Livestock Iden­ti­fi­ca­tion Sys­tem ear tags in­di­cat­ing where they be­longed.

Thomson, who has been liv­ing at War­wick af­ter the courts banned him from at­tend­ing his Cun­na­mulla prop­er­ties, owned and lived on prop­er­ties Ky­wong and Gil­nockie.

Over 11 years, Thomson stole 59 cat­tle and bred 168 of their prog­eny, re­sult­ing in five cat­tle gen­er­a­tions, in some cases. By the time some of the stolen stock was iden­ti­fied, Thomson had al­ready sold at least 17 through the Dalby Sa­le­yards to dif­fer­ent feed­lots for more than $12,500. Be­cause these cat­tle were bought le­git­i­mately, they could not be re­turned to the neigh­bours.

Charleville Dis­trict Court heard po­lice seized many of the stolen cat­tle but Thomson con­sented to re­turn an­other 81 cat­tle to the vic­tims.

Crown pros­e­cu­tor Lily Brisick said the length of the of­fend­ing had wa­tered down strong blood­lines the neigh­bour­ing farm­ers had worked hard to es­tab­lish. As an ex­am­ple, she cited one neigh­bour’s stud Braford cow pro­duced a beast worth $7500 but, when bred with Thomson’s stock, pro­duced an an­i­mal worth just $436.

“In coun­try as vast as this, where fences just can­not be checked daily, gra­ziers rely on their neigh­bours to re­turn stray­ing stock,” she said.

“Trust is what binds the community. Trust is even more (im­por­tant) in times of drought when cat­tle must move fur­ther to find feed, and (in) times of flood, when fences are most likely to be dam­aged. (Thomson’s) con­duct has spanned both drought and flood.”

Po­lice un­cov­ered the thefts through cat­tle seizures and DNA tests over three years, which cost po­lice about $72,000 and vic­tims about $90,000. Thomson pleaded guilty af­ter two days of a trial, which re­quired wit­nesses to be flown in from NSW. Hewas sen­tenced to two years and three months jail, sus­pended af­ter nine months. The bal­ance will hang over his head for five years.

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