Experts weigh in on motive for attack on horse

What drives a person to launch a frenzied knife attack on a miniature horse?

Following the death of beloved miniature horse Star after it suffered 41 stab wounds in a midnight attack, the Otago Daily Times spoke to a psychiatrist and a criminologist in an attempt to explain an act which has horrified the country.

University of Canterbury criminologist Prof Greg Newbold believed there were two main possibilities regarding the type of person who carried out the prolonged attack.

''Either he had some grudge against the people that owned the horse, and that was his way of getting back at them, or he's just a psychopath, who enjoys seeing an animal suffer.''

While people occasionally killed animals as retribution against their owners, they usually did so in a more humane way, Prof Newbold said.

Star (right) in happier times. Photo: Supplied
Star (right) in happier times. Photo: Supplied

He also disagreed with earlier claims more than one assailant would likely have been responsible, saying there would be very few people willing to commit or abet such a crime.

Members of the sleepy seaside community of Waitati have said there were personality clashes and disputes in the community, but nothing to indicate a crime of this level of brutality was coming.

University of Otago department of psychological medicine senior lecturer Dr Christopher Gale said the large majority of crimes were committed by people who knew what they were doing.

''In general most of the bad things that happen in this town are criminal behaviour ... people do bad things.''

The small remainder included two subsets of people,he said.

The first was those who acted because they felt compelled.

''They're perceiving they're getting a command they must do this or something terrible will happen.

''They know this is wrong, but in these circumstances they [think] they are doing the right thing.

''That would be where an insanity defence can come in.''

However, the vast majority of people who heard voices or had delusions would not commit such acts, he said.

''Most people in that situation are hearing things that are much more personal; they're more likely to be commanded to hurt themselves, or not eat, or not
talk to Dr Gale.''

The second type were those who had antisocial personality disorder (APSD).

According to the British NHS, someone with antisocial personality disorder was typically ''manipulative, deceitful and reckless'', with no care for the feelings of others.

About 1% of the population had this type of disorder, Dr Gale said.

Those with APSD were sometimes termed sociopaths, or psychopaths in its severe form, but those terms were so ''loaded'' they were now avoided by professionals, he said.

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