Matthew Robert Wakefield leaves Gympie Magistrates Court yesterday.
Matthew Robert Wakefield leaves Gympie Magistrates Court yesterday. Tanya Easterby

Cattle poacher walks but victims hope it warns off others

HE MAY be a free man today but the prospect of prison will hang over the head of convicted cattle poacher Matthew Robert Wakefield for the next two years.

The 28-year-old man from The Palms was sentenced in Gympie Magistrates Court yesterday to four months prison, suspended for two years, for killing two pregnant droughtmaster cows and stealing their meat in Widgee State Forest about March 23.

He was also given 200 hours of community service for possessing tainted property and was ordered to forfeit to police items including a compound bow, two arrows, a steel mesh glove, a knife and a bandsaw.

Wakefield was also given 18 months to repay $4000 restitution to the owners of the cattle.

One remaining charge of trespassing with the purpose of taking wildlife from the Widgee State Forest will be revisited on June 3, after that matter was adjourned for ongoing police conferencing.

While no actual prison time will be served by Wakefield, the Widgee owners of the slain cattle, who didn't wish to be named, said they hoped the two-month court and media saga that followed the killings would offer a warning for potential poachers.

"Hopefully it's a deterrent for other people," they said.

They said cattle poaching was a problem for many farmers and they doubted Wakefield was the first to hunt their stock.

"It's happening everywhere," they told The Gympie Times yesterday.

They said the two three-year-old cows targeted were their own hand-picked stock, with quality blood lines and at peak calving age.

They said the loss of the two breeders and their calves was both shocking and a financial blow.

They said while they had increased surveillance at the site since the killings, the problem continued for them with shots heard on their agisted land as recently as last week.

The graziers said the prospect of uninvited hunting on the land was not only a problem for their operation but a danger to their own safety.

"We don't know where they are or when they're shooting; it's a danger to us," they said.

It took more than an hour of deliberation for Magistrate Maxine Baldwin to decide the sentence for Wakefield's part in the killings.

Although Wakefield entered an early guilty plea and denied conceiving the idea of the attack, shooting the beasts or removing one of the calves from its mother's womb, Magistrate Baldwin told him she "could not accept you had a lesser role".

She labelled Wakefield's remorse as "questionable" despite "statements to the contrary", suggesting his remorse was predominately derived from the negative public exposure.

The defence told the court Wakefield, a father of three with experience in meatworks and as a kangaroo skinner, took "no pleasure" in the killings and that the cows' deaths were quick and painless because any stress on the beasts would have tainted the meat, rendering it unfit for consumption.

Gympie Times

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