IN COURT: A Dalby farmer appeared in court over the disappearance of two steers. PICTURE: ZOE PHILLIPS
IN COURT: A Dalby farmer appeared in court over the disappearance of two steers. PICTURE: ZOE PHILLIPS

Dalby horse trainer in court over missing cattle dispute

DALBY cattle farmer Helen Louise Sutton “dug herself in a ditch” when she concealed the location of two steers belonging to her neighbour all the while feeding them and keeping them on her property for almost a month.

Police prosecutor senior constable Jodie Tahana told the Dalby Magistrates Court the Toowoomba Major and Organised Crime Squad were called by a man on December 26 who noted two of his steers were missing from his Ducklo property, next to Sutton’s own property where she also bred cattle.

The steers were registered and branded, and the victim told police he was aware Sutton also had cattle on her property.

The victim said he had attended Sutton’s property but was not able to locate the defendant.

He did see two steers in her yard that looked like his own, but noticed the NLIS devices had been removed.

The court heard on January 14, police conducted a search of Sutton’s property when she and her two sons were present.

The defendant took police to her own cattle yard but were unable to locate the cattle in question.

The defendant said to police that she did not have the cattle identified in a photo police showed her.

After the search, the victim told police he had located the two steers in her yard, and police believed the defendant had been “deceptive” in their prior conversation, according to snr const Tahana.

The court heard police attended Sutton’s address a second time and conducted an emergent search on the property.

They were met by the defendant’s son who said his mother had gone to check on a bore, however the police believed she was attempting to dispose of the steers so they went to find the defendant.

Sutton was found with a vehicle and horse float and seemed to be in control of about 14 cattle, and police were able to identify the victim’s cattle.

The defendant told police the two steers had been in the horse yards at the time of the first search because she believed she would get in trouble for having the steers on her property.

Defence lawyer Craig Van Der Hoven told the court his client was a “good, hardworking, productive member of the community”, and had been heavily involved with training horses for polocrosse.

He said Sutton was solely responsible for her family farm, where they had 400 head of cattle, because her sons and husband were all fly-in-fly-out workers and were away a lot.

Mr Van Der Hoven said the victim and defendant had neighbouring properties but a boundary fence was “non-existent”.

It was common for cattle to venture onto other properties, he said, but in the past they were always returned.

In his submissions, Mr Van Der Hoven tendered four character references, one containing “allegations” against the victim that contributed to some animosity between the parties.

The lawyer said his client was not comfortable going to see the victim to discuss the movement of the steers when they went onto her property, and said she wanted to wait until her husband had returned from work.

He said his client kept the steer on her property because they had become aggressive, and were causing issues with Sutton’s polocrosse horses.

Sutton said she didn’t return them because she was concerned how the situation would look to the victim, and she was concerned about the legal ramifications.

Mr Van Der Hoven said it was not his client’s intention to “deprive” the victim of his steers, and said Sutton fed and took care of the steers while they were on her property.

Magistrate Tracy Mossop acknowledged the stress of having to tend to a property on her own, but said it was a “foolish decision” to conceal the steers from the victim and police, saying she put herself in hot water.

Sutton pleaded guilty to unlawfully using stock.

She was sentenced to a four month good behaviour recognisance to the sum of $400.

No conviction was recorded.