A COWANGIE man who stole sheep and wool from a fellow farmer has been “ostracised by his entire community” over what a magistrate described as a “despicable act”.
Bernard David Boseley was convicted and fined $12,500 in the Mildura Magistrates’ Court yesterday after pleading guilty to stealing 16 breeding merino ewes and South African meat merino ewes and eight fleeces of wool.
Investigators looking into the whereabouts of sheep that had gone missing from farmer Kieran Hayter’s property turned their attention to the financially-stricken and reclusive Boseley in December 2016 after several sheep escaped from his farm west of Underbool, which borders the Murray-Sunset National Park.
Police and stock agents later searched Boseley’s property, the court heard, identifying 16 ewes as belonging to Mr Hayter.
They also found seven ear tags belonging to Mr Hayter that had been cut off and discarded in a catching pen, 15 piercing points and five bails of wool containing merino fleece, which were seized.
Prosecutor Leading Senior Constable Matt Pardon said Boseley told police the sheep may have entered his property through “bad fencing” and that the ear tags may have been cut off “accidentally”.
The court heard he made no attempt to return the sheep, even though he had been told Mr Hayter had been the victim of livestock theft.
Boseley was initially charged with stealing more than 160 sheep but pleaded guilty yesterday after that number was downgraded, averting the need for a lengthy contested hearing.
Police also dropped charges against Boseley’s 21-year-old son Navarre, who lives with him on the Cowangie farm.
Several landholders from the Cowangie area had been due to give evidence against Boseley.
Boseley’s lawyer described him as “somewhat socially awkward”, with little involvement in his local community whose members largely wanted no more to do with him.
He said the theft was “opportunistic” but stressed there was “little likelihood” Boseley would do it again.
The court heard Boseley had made substantial financial losses in three of the past four financial years, owed more than $750,000 to the bank and had to borrow cash to pay his legal fees.
Most of his own sheep on the sprawling 2387 hectare property were in “poor condition”, the court heard.
The theft caused a great deal of stress and financial pressure for Mr Hayter, who battled to get the ewes back on their appropriate breeding cycle and had to bring in contract shearers out of routine because the sheep had been sheared at an inappropriate time.
Magistrate Leonard Brear said Boseley would have faced jail time had he not pleaded guilty or if there was evidence he had transported the sheep from another property.
Mr Brear said Boseley had let down a community of farmers who were entitled to have trust in one another.”Your name in your local community will no doubt be regarded as mud for a long time to come,” Mr Brear said.
For this story, purchase your copy of Tuesday's Sunraysia Daily 17/04/2018.To subscribe to our Digital Edition Click here