An Austrian count shot his wife’s dog dead and hid his body during ‘acrimonious’ divorce proceedings – but claimed he was putting the pet out of his misery.
Earlier this year, Count Konrad Goess-Saurau, 70, had denied a charge of criminal damage on the grounds that it was reasonable to ‘destroy’ the animal to end his suffering.
At Swindon Magistrates’ Court on Friday (11 November) prosecutor Ben Worthington said the German pointer named Herman was solely owned by his wife Countess Susan Goess-Saurau.
He said the Countess arrived home at Temple Farm, Marlborough, on 21 November last year and couldn’t find Herman.
On checking the CCTV footage, which showed her husband taking her dog, she contacted him. She claimed his response was: “I have put the dog down, he is disgusting, nobody likes him.”
Upset by events, the Countess – who has been married to the Count for 26 years – phoned Wiltshire Police to report the incident.
She told the court: “We had a heated discussion in the morning because he’d peed the day before. I didn’t see it, but the dog had peed through the bannister on the landing onto the table below.”
Mr Worthington said: “The defendant did not have permission to dispose of the dog in the way he did in any event.”
He said the Count admitted the shooting in a hand-written prepared statement handed to a police officer in an interview – but claimed the pet had cancer and was in agony.
“I full admit that I shot Herman, my gun dog. I shot him humanely and buried him with my gamekeeper”, it read. “I had to take the merciful route to end Herman’s suffering.”
The Count also told police that criminal proceedings over Herman’s death were motivated by a divorce and obtaining a larger settlement.
But the Countess – a master of foxhounds with VWH Hunt – claimed Herman, who was purchased by her mother Brenda Williams for her 46th birthday, remained healthy and happy.
“He came riding every morning with me, and out in the afternoon, he was averaging 10 miles a day so he was very very fit”, she said.
Adding: “It was such an awful thing to do, the dog didn’t deserve to die and it was my dog, not his dog.
“I adore my dogs. When their time comes, it is done so in a kind, calm and compassionate manner.
“I think he had plenty of life left in him. He was just an old dog that was slowing down a bit.”
When asked by Benjamin Newton, defending, whether it would assist in divorce proceedings if her husband has a criminal record, she replied: “It’s not something I considered. I am determined to get justice for my dog who didn’t deserve to die in that manner”
Mrs Goess-Saurau said previous family dogs have been taken to the vets to be euthanased at the end of their life – never shot.
Christopher Willis, who has been a farrier at Temple Farm since 2006, told the court: “All dogs love a farrier, so he was always pleased to see me. I never looked at him and thought he was getting a bit doddery or anything.”
When Count Goess-Saurau’s son Markus – from a previous marriage – took to the stand for the defence, he claimed Herman was a family pet who had a relationship with everybody.
He said: “He was a hunting dog, he would hunt. He’s well known for killing deer. It’s something we struggled to stop him doing.”
He went on to say that at the time of the shooting, Herman had deteriorated in old age and was “sore, stiff and limping”, adding that his body was covered in “cancerous lumps”.
Markus told that court: “There wasn’t a part of his body you could put your hand on where there wasn’t a bump.
“There was an issue in the house, something always needed cleaning up in the mornings, either urine or, call it, poo. I’ve seen him happier, given the dog he once was.”
Temple Farm gamekeeper Phil Holborow said Herman was ill.
“He had lumps all over him and he was wobbly on his legs, his back end was going, that’s how I’d describe it. He was ill, the poor old boy looked ill.
“In my words, he needed putting down, in my words. I think he was suffering.
“He [the Count] told me the dog crapped everywhere in the house, he said ‘I think we need to deal with it’. He asked me to bury it, do that’s what I did.”
Former Temple Farm manager for 35 years, Christopher Musgrove described the Count as an “international businessman with a care for the environment”.
Summing up, Mr Worthington told the bench of three magistrates: “He wasn’t at the end of his life; he did not need to be taken out and shot.”
He said that the Countess was “clearly passionate about the health of her dog”, confirming that Herman was taken to the vets regularly throughout his life.
Mr Newton said his client is a man of good character and had a lawful excuse to commit criminal damage. He said Mrs Goess-Saurau has “broader matters at mind”.
Mr Worthington add that the use of a firearm, namely a rifle, to kill the animal in a “revenge attack” was an aggravating feature.
Chair of the bench, Beverly Payne, returned a verdict of guilty.
She said: “We note the relationship was acrimonious and had been on that day. We are sure that you act unreasonably, you could have organised taking Herman to a vet to be euthanized like all the other pets.
“You must have known that would have upset your wife. Therefore we do find you guilty.”
Describing the offence as having a “high degree of planning”, Ms Payne imposed a £2,000 fine. He must also pay £620 costs and a £200 surcharge.
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