CONTENT WARNING: This story may distress some readers.
Confronted by a possum trapped in his chimney, Simon Pasi Sutinen wasted no time in grabbing a knife from his kitchen and stabbing the animal to death while it could not escape.
“It is such an abhorrent thing when one reads the facts,” Magistrate Beth Campbell said when sentencing him on Monday (27 February), adding it seemed like he had killed the marsupial with “callous indifference”.
ACT Fire and Rescue had been called to his home in Watson on 22 February 2022 to put out a fire, the ACT Magistrates Court heard.
Afterwards, officers at the home spoke to a man who said he had seen a possum stuck in the chimney earlier in the day.
This man watched as Sutinen spotted the possum, collected a knife from the kitchen and stabbed it multiple times before putting its body into a bin.
Police recovered the animal’s body, as well as the knife, and found fur in the fireplace.
Sutinen’s Legal Aid lawyer, Jeremy Banwell, said his client thought possums were “pest animals”, which is why he stabbed it.
Prosecutor Lauren Knobel pointed out they are, in fact, a protected species and Magistrate Campbell said what he had done was “a chilling example of the offence” as he had a “trapped, sentient being in the chimney” that he had stabbed a number of times “seemingly with no compunction”.
“I expect the majority of the community would recoil or feel disgust,” she said.
This was not the only offence Sutinen was to be sentenced for, as he had pleaded guilty to charges of aggravated animal cruelty, failing to comply with a direction without a reasonable excuse and damaging property.
In the midst of Canberra’s COVID-19 lockdown in August 2021, police spotted him trying to get back into the quarantine facility at Acton when he had been required to isolate.
He was coronavirus-positive and said he was trying to get back inside after leaving “to go get smokes”.
Magistrate Campbell said his behaviour would have been “alarming indeed” at the time.
Then on 4 March 2022, officers were called to the Lyneham shops because he had lit bins and e-scooters on fire.
When they asked him what he was doing, he said, “I was just having a burn-off. I was bored”.
“This is bizarre conduct for an adult male to engage in,” Magistrate Campbell said.
“It seems as though you almost did it for your own entertainment.”
Mr Banwell said his 35-year-old client last worked when he was about 21 and had been on welfare payments since then, while he also had significant mental health issues.
Sutinen has been in custody since he was arrested in March 2022. He was convicted and sentenced to a total of nine months’ jail, which was backdated as time served. He was also fined $1000 with no time to pay.
He remains in custody on Supreme Court matters.