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The owner of a miniature horse slain in a brutal stabbing attack is disappointed its attacker has only been jailed for two and a half years over the "crazy evil act".
Reginald Robert Ozanne (50) pleaded guilty to a charge of wilfully ill-treating an animal when he appeared before the Dunedin District Court in March.
Months before being charged, however, the defendant's Waitati home was raided by police and he forcefully denied being responsible for the frenzied attack on Star that sent shock-waves through the tranquil coastal community.
Judge Michael Crosbie said Ozanne's conduct following the killing, in which he stabbed Star 41 times, "could be viewed as reprehensible".
"You front-footed your innocence through the media and you deflected the blame in the direction of others which, in a small community, lands somewhere," he said.
Outside court the animal's owner Mandy Mayhem-Bullock said she was disappointed in the length of imprisonment.
"I honestly think, what would it take top get the maximum sentence [five years]? This is so brutal and horrific," she said.
She was unmoved by Ozanne's apology letter and sceptical about his claims of having no memory of the incident.
"I don't believe anything he says. He must've been covered in blood. There was a splatter area of metres," she said.
Detective Sergeant Chris Henderson paid tribute to the family and revealed police had received an unprecedented amount of information through the Crimestoppers hotline regarding the case.
He had a simple explanation why it took months to arrest Ozanne.
"Things take time," he said.
"You can't rush anything if you want to do a proper investigation."
Mrs Mayhem-Bullock earlier said in a statement read in court the four and a half months waiting for the arrest was the hardest part.
She said the defendant had come to her home uninvited shortly after the vicious slaying to stress his innocence.
Ozanne even called a public meeting in the local library in a bid to clear his name, she said.
Mrs Mayhem-Bullock said she was plagued by what she might have done differently.
"Somehow I placed [Star] in the path of a monster," she said.
"I replayed that gruesome scene in my head . . . a dark figure out there so close to our houses. A crazy evil act that only our big horses were witness to."
Sadly, she told the court, the Waitati community had been forever tainted by bloodshed.
"This is not the sleepy seaside settlement we all feel good about. A horrible, unimaginable brutal crime affected everyone in the village, and the nation, and the globe. This tragedy belongs to all of us," Mrs Mayhem-Bullock said.
In the weeks following, her son slept with a baseball bat beside his bed.
According to court documents, on the night of February 17 last year, Ozanne entered a paddock by Pitt St where Star was tethered for the night, some time after 9.30pm.
He was armed with a ‘‘sharp object’’ and inflicted 41 stab wounds to the animal, particularly focused on its back, neck and throat.
During the attack, Star’s tether was cut and he was found in the early hours of the following morning by a dog walker who alerted authorities.
The horse was taken to Invermay for emergency treatment but succumbed to the extensive wounds a couple of days later.
Defence counsel Deborah Henderson said her client had consumed half a bottle of home-brewed whiskey on the night in question, along with prescription painkillers.
The remainder of the night was a blank, she said.
Ozanne, Mrs Henderson said, had initially pleaded guilty so he could see all the evidence against him.
He now accepted he was the killer.
"He's horrified and ashamed he's done this," the lawyer said.
Ozanne was motivated to address his drug problems and wrote a letter to Star's owners stressing his remorse.
"I doubt I'll ever be able to fully understand how this whole thing has and continues to affect you," he wrote.
Reports outlined Ozanne's long-standing substance abuse issues and difficult childhood.
Judge Crosbie said such entrenched issues meant the man's prospects of imminent rehabilitation were not strong.
Ozanne was barred from animal ownership for 10 years – the maximum period.
Earlier about 20 demonstrators gathered outside court ahead of the sentencing.
Otago Equine Hospital practise manager Carmen Greimer, who was working at the vet hospital at Invermay when Star was brought in with his wounds, said the event was "traumatic".
She had followed the case and as a mother and a horse owner was hoping for a maximum sentence of five years prison for the charge
"To think there could be someone like this in our society is exceptionally scary."
Chester Dextar, a friend and supporter of Star's owner Mandy Mayhem-Bullock who drove from Christchurch to be outside court, said he was there to help make sure nobody would forget what happened to what was a beautiful horse.
He felt New Zealand was "absolutely disgusted" by the crime and the 20 people who were outside court were "just a fraction of the people who loved and cared for that pony".
Despite a previous order to keep the man's identity under wraps, which was lifted when he pleaded guilty in March, Ozanne was been widely known by the community after he spoke to the Otago Daily Times before he was charged.