Man jailed for barbaric animal torture

By Imran Ali -

Cruel acts were filmed

PERVERSE PLEASURE: Animal abuser Joshua Heka in court for ill-treating about 10 possums while filming the torture. PHOTO/IMRAN ALI
PERVERSE PLEASURE: Animal abuser Joshua Heka in court for ill-treating about 10 possums while filming the torture. PHOTO/IMRAN ALI

A Whangarei man sent to prison for the barbaric torture of at least 10 possums, including nailing them to trees and chopping off their limbs, contemplated a job in pest control.

Although Joshua Heka is trained in that field, he's been banned by the Whangarei District Court from owning any animals for five years after he was this week convicted on 10 counts of cruelty to animals and two of possession of objectionable material.

He filmed the ill-treatment of animals on an iPad, together with a running commentary while abusing them, with the torture only coming to light after someone in a house he lived in alerted police to the disturbing videos during an unrelated visit to the home.

SPCA chief executive Ric Odom said it was one of the worst if not the worst case of animal cruelty authorities have dealt with.

"The level of offending certainly warranted a custodial sentence. Our hope is that he (Heka) gets some treatment," Mr Odom said.

In court, Judge John McDonald described Heka's actions as "horrific acts of violence against defenceless animals" from which he derived perverse pleasure.

Heka has been diagnosed with a major depressive disorder and probably suffered from severe personality disorder, he said in his sentencing remarks. He's been successfully treated for his underlying health conditions.

Defence lawyer Shaun Russell said Heka gained no sinister joy in ill-treating the animals but did so because of his inability to cope with stress.

Heka suffered from lifelong mental health issues and was on medication for his inability to deal with stress, he said.

Mr Russell said Heka declined to be sentenced to home detention because he didn't want to burden his family with his needs and wants. Jail, he submitted, would be counterproductive for health reasons. Heka had trained in the field of pest control, he said.

Judge McDonald said he wouldn't detail the entire summary of facts in open court as it made "distasteful reading".

The first footage of a possum being ill-treated was recorded in June 2013.

Heka injured the animals then killed them and the degree of sadism and cruelty was high, the judge said.

Judge McDonald said filming the torture was an aggravating feature and that the recordings that also showed the animals screaming and trying to climb on to the trees in order to escape meant Heka had no defence to his offending.

He told a probation officer that he found joy and satisfaction in his actions. Heka was sentenced to two years and four months in jail.

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