GUILTY PLEA: Benjamin Gregory Vignes leaves Maroochydore Court House in December last year after appearing for animal cruelty.
GUILTY PLEA: Benjamin Gregory Vignes leaves Maroochydore Court House in December last year after appearing for animal cruelty. Stuart Cumming Supplied

Killing dog led to man being 'shunned and abused'

A MAN who bought fast food, ate it and then slept while a dog died in the boot of the car he was driving says he has been shunned by his friends and abused by strangers threatening to put him in the boot of a car.

Benjamin Gregory Vignes, 25, put the bull mastiff cross named Theo in the boot of his rented Toyota sedan because he did not want him to soil the interior, Maroochydore Magistrates Court heard.

Vignes pleaded guilty to a charge of animal cruelty on Thursday last week in relation to the death of the dog.

No media were in the court room at the time but an official transcript has given insight into the proceedings.

Police prosecutor Sergeant Vicki Kennedy-Grills said Vignes had decided to take the dog for a drive about 11am on November 13 last year.

"Due to the vehicle that he was using being a hire vehicle, he stated he has put the dog in the boot because he didn't want the inside of the car to get messed up by the dog," Sgt Kennedy-Grills said.

She said Vignes called the dog into the boot and it hopped in.

"He further stated that he drove from his home address to McDonald's on Aerodrome Rd at Maroochydore."

The court heard Vignes bought food and drove to the Maroochydore Beach car park on the corner of Cotton Tree Esplanade and Alexandra Parade.

"The defendant stated he fell asleep after eating his McDonald's meal.

"He was woken up about eight hours later by someone tapping on the window.

"He stated that he drove home and it was then that he realised the dog was still in the boot and he couldn't hear it."

Theo the dog was left in the boot of a car until he was dead.
Theo the dog was left in the boot of a car until he was dead. Photo Contributed

She said police had spoken to an RSPCA inspector, who stated their inquiries with the Bureau of Meteorology that day revealed that at midday the temperature at Maroochydore would have been 28 degrees.

"Further, using his knowledge, he stated that if a dog was locked in a vehicle, it would become critically ill with that temperature."

Sgt Kennedy-Grills said they received a call from a woman, Rachel Turnbull, in the early hours of the next day who told police she was the owner the dog.

She said Ms Turnbull told police she had given the dog to Vignes because it was not able to be housed at her home.

Police were told Ms Turnbull had already been to where the dog was and seen it dead in the boot.

Officers went to a Maroochydore home about 4.45am where they found Vignes.

"When police asked about the whereabouts of the dog, the defendant told police that it was deceased and he had buried it," Sgt Kennedy-Grills said.

"The defendant then admitted to police that he lied about burying the dog and stated it was still in the boot of the car."

Police directed him to open the boot and they saw the white and tan dog lying dead with its head towards the rear of the car.

Defence solicitor Belinda Robinson said her client had grown very fond of the dog in the lead up to its death.

Ms Robinson said Vignes had responded to a post on social media from August 25 stating the dog had to be given away.

"The Facebook post said words to the effect of, 'If no one picks him up today, he will be put down'," Ms Robinson said.

She said after an exchange of Facebook messages her client picked up the dog that day.

"Upon acquiring the dog, my client found that it was underweight and easily frightened.

"It had an extreme aversion to being chained, causing it to react frantically at the sight of a chain, which led my client to believe that it had been chained for lengthy periods."

SAD LOSS: Teenager Faith Turnbull hugs Theo. He died in the boot of Mr Vignes’ rental car.
SAD LOSS: Teenager Faith Turnbull hugs Theo. He died in the boot of Mr Vignes’ rental car. Photo Contributed

"My client developed an extremely close and loving relationship with the dog and it (was) no longer required to be restrained, as it adored my client and would stay loyally by his side.

"He slept in my client's bed every night and was very well taken care of.

"My client considered the dog to be his friend and they went everywhere together."

The court heard Vignes had hired the sedan to help friends who were moving.

"My client usually sleeps through the day and his sleeping patterns were thrown out by helping his friends move all week."

Ms Robinson said Vignes had taken the dog to the Maroochy River mouth with the intention of giving it some exercise but due to fatigue; fell asleep with the uneaten McDonalds on his lap.

She said he realised his mistake when he got home.

"He rushed to the boot of the car to find his best friend no longer alive.

"My client broke down and called his mother, inconsolable.

"Immediately after telephoning his mother, he telephoned the complainant and explained his mistake and invited her and her daughter to his house so that he could further explain and apologise and so that they could say goodbye."

Ms Robinson said they arrived soon after and stayed for about six-and-a-half hours, crying and comforting one another.

"The complainant and her daughter were upset; however, they displayed empathy toward my client, as he was apologetic and horrified at his mistake.

"They thanked him for allowing them to say goodbye and for letting them know straight away what occurred.

"The complainant and her daughter left my client's house at approximately 3.30am, when he retired to bed.

"My client awoke an hour later to the police in his residence, conducting a search of the premises."

She said Vignes had suffered every day since the dog's death.

She said he had been shunned by his friends and been abused by people including strangers threatening to put him in their boot.

"My client is immensely remorseful for his actions, which were purely a mistake which he lives with every day."

Magistrate Haydn Stjernqvist said Vignes' instructions that he had forgot the dog was in his boot, let alone the fact he put the dog in there, were at "extreme odds" with his very close attachment to the animal.

Mr Stjernqvist noted Vignes was on a good behaviour bond at the time of the offence for a drug matter but said he would not take any further action with it.

"Hopefully you've left all that behind you," Mr Stjernqvist said.

He fined Vignes $2000, of which $1000 was ordered to be paid to the RSPCA.

No conviction was recorded.

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