FINANCE BOSS EXPOSED AS BUNNY BURGLAR
Finance executive’s bizarre drug-fuelled offending targeted bunnies
A once high-flying Kiwi businessman appeared to have all the trappings of success. But he was also behind what was described as one of Australia’s worst cases of animal cruelty. Then in 2016 pet rabbits started to disappear from hutches in suburban Auckland. After more than two years of fighting through the courts, the Herald on Sunday can reveal Fergus McMahon’s bizarre story.
‘There is no case similar to this ’
Judge Ema Aitken
Aformer finance executive has been caught stealing rabbits from Auckland’s suburban backyards late at night.
The Herald on Sunday can also reveal he is the same businessman who was jailed and later acquitted in Australia for what was described as “one of the worst-case scenarios of aggravated cruelty to animals”.
Now Fergus Rebel McMahon, 51, will be monitored and kept on a nightly curfew to prevent the bizarre offending from occurring again.
His New Zealand case, which the Herald on Sunday can report today after fighting a legal battle to lift a more than two-year blanket suppression order, began in 2016 when at least 15 rabbits went missing from huts and cages around Auckland.
Police released CCTV footage of one of the thefts in September that year in the hope the public could help them find the bunny thief.
When officers caught the offender they didn’t imagine he would be the director of a finance firm.
They also could hardly have imagined he was Brendan Francis McMahon, the person responsible for what a Sydney magistrate called “one of the worst case(s)” of aggravated animal cruelty in Australia.
During the mid-2000s, McMahon was arrested after dead or dying animals — some of which had been skinned — were found in and around his downtown Sydney office.
At the time, McMahon helped to manage Meares-McMahon Capital, a financial planning and mortgage brokerage, with Jason Meares, the brother of Australian model and fashion designer Jodhi Meares.
The allegations against McMahon included the torture and mutilation of 17 rabbits and a guinea pig.
He also faced a charge of bestiality, but this was later withdrawn.
McMahon was jailed for 16 months in July 2006 but the New Zealandborn man’s Australian convictions were later quashed on appeal due to mental illness, which was triggered inpart by his drug use.
After McMahon returned to Auckland he changed his name from Brendan to Fergus as he resumed his finance career.
He eventually began working as the director of project finance at Property Finance Partners in 2016, but he relapsed and began to use drugs again, while his predilection for rabbits also returned.
McMahon started contacting the owners of rabbits, who were either breeding or selling them, online.
Then, late at night, he would sneak on to their property to take the animals from cages and hutches.
He did this to eight animals over an 18-month period as 22 separate properties across Auckland were burgled.
One pet owner who was targeted told the Herald on Sunday: “I heard this human noise from my window at one o’clock in the morning or something and the thought crossed my mind — bunny burglar?”
But she dismissed the idea because she wasn’t a breeder.
“Then I heard the squealing of my rabbits,” she recalled. “I woke my partner up.”
McMahon stole four rabbits that night, but a rabbit named Lucky survived. “[The police] came straight away, which we knew was something a bit weird as well, for them to come so quickly for rabbits,” the owner said.
“You stole rabbits,” Judge Ema Aitken said, when sentencing McMahon in the Auckland District Court in May this year.
McMahon insisted he released the animals into the wild, believing he was liberating them from their hutches or from their owners.
But the court also heard he has little recall about what exactly happened when he stole the rabbits and struggled to determine “what was real and what was not”.
Some of the victims also became aware of McMahon’s Australian case and feared the worst for their pets, while others have now increased security around their homes.
“There was behaviour that took place in Australia that could be broadly described as similar,” Judge Aitken said. “However, they were allegations of much more serious conduct involving the harm and death of rabbits.”
She said there “is no case similar to this Mr McMahon”, and turned to cases of rustling and multiple burglaries for legal guidance when sentencing him.
“This was obviously premeditated and well-planned offending,” Judge Aitken said, adding that the key driver to the offending was McMahon’s methamphetamine use.
From May last year McMahon was a resident at Odyssey House as he attempted to curb his drug addiction.
“It would appear that you have made significant gains in terms of your rehabilitation,” Judge Aitken.
But the judge said she had to “denounce and to deter [McMahon’s] offending” and protect his victims.
In all, McMahon pleaded guilty to 11 charges, eight of which were representative for 22 instances of burglary.
He also faced two other theft charges for stealing rabbits and one count of careless driving.
Judge Aitken sentenced him to four months’ community detention, with a nightly curfew, and 15 months’ intensive supervision. She said this “should give the community some comfort that the authorities will know where you are at night”.
McMahon was also ordered to pay $2735 in reparations to the victims and convicted and discharged on the driving charge. He has other historical unrelated convictions.
The authorities will know where you are at night. Judge Ema Aitken
Fergus Rebel McMahon