Footy star stabbed cat then threw it into burning house
FOOTBALLER Matthew Tanner stabbed his girlfriend's cat Sabby and threw the body into the flames of a burning house he had just torched.
His destructive acts followed arguments between the pair.
Crown prosecutor Mitchell Whelan said Tanner wilfully set fire to the house on December 3 last year, then with intent to inflict severe pain and suffering, had killed the cat.
Tanner, 31, appeared in custody in Bundaberg District Court where he pleaded guilty to the arson of a house at Walkervale and to serious animal cruelty - both crimes declared to be domestic violence offences.
Mr Whelan said the house was owned by two brothers who let Tanner and the woman reside rent-free.
The uninsured timber house was destroyed, both land and house valued between $234,000-$258,000.
Mr Whelan said the woman wanted to end their relationship but felt too scared.
On the day of the fire she went to her father's but returning at 5pm to get clothes she saw black smoke - Tanner had set the house on fire.
The woman saw Tanner with a big knife and Sabby their pet cat, asking him 'what have you done?'.
"I told you I loved you," he said.
Mr Whelan said Tanner told a neighbour who saw the fire "not to worry about it ... they won't pay me, this is what they get".
The quick-thinking neighbour then hosed down nearby gas bottles.
Another nearby resident saw Tanner with a bloodied knife carrying a cat before stabbing it in the neck and throwing it into the burning house, with Tanner saying "she has to pay for it".
He told the resident he set the house alight with petrol.
Tanner was seen to stab himself in the arm and when police arrived he yelled out to officers to shoot him. He dropped the knife and was arrested.
Mr Whelan said it was difficult for firefighters to get inside because Tanner blocked the front door with a chest of drawers.
Barrister Kim Bryson said Tanner was a highly intelligent man and highly regarded. He was a very gifted rugby league player who had played for Melbourne Storm, but was a person who had succumbed to his drug addiction.
Ms Bryson said Tanner had been playing football for a Gladstone team but at the end of the season went off the rails and began using ice.
Tanner's family helped him to get assistance in 2015 and he did well until the end of 2016, when he relapsed into drug use that escalated.
At the time of the fire he was under the influence of ice and alcohol.
Judge Michael Shanahan said he had made nonsensical remarks to neighbours, caused significant financial loss, and was seen to stab the family cat and throw it into the fire.
He had good standing in the community but at the time had significant drug problems and paranoia.
Judge Shanahan, who also heard of his prior offences, sentenced Tanner to four years jail for arson and six months for animal cruelty.
With time already served he will be eligible to seek parole after serving 12 months.