‘Disgusting’: Most hated man in Australia
Pressure is mounting on authorities to lay animal cruelty charges against a man who allegedly ripped the head off a kookaburra at a pub in Western Australia.
Witnesses claim Daniel Welfare carried out the barbaric attack after the kookaburra, known as Kevin, landed on his plate as he dined at the Parkerville Tavern in Parkerville earlier this month.
Mr Welfare was named by Nine News on Thursday following a social media campaign to unmask "Kevin's murderer", sparking a torrent of death threats against him and his partner.
The beloved kookaburra was the pub's unofficial mascot and management had even erected a sign warning patrons of his cheeky habit of nicking food.
"He has a love of the Parky Steak Sandwich and fish," it read.
"He is loathed (sic) to buy his own and whenever possible, will sneak up and steal yours."
The notice urged patrons to be "mindful" of their food and promised management would "continue our negotiations with this chap in the hope that he learns some table manners".
Kevin's gruesome death sparked a nationwide outpouring of grief and anger, with a petition called "Prosecute Kevin's Murderer!" garnering more than 2000 signatures by Friday evening.
RSPCA WA chair Lynne Bradshaw initially claimed inspectors may be unable to take any action because the bird's swift death made it difficult to prove it had suffered under the state's Animal Welfare Act.
But less than 24 hours later, the organisation backflipped, saying Ms Bradshaw had "spoken prematurely" and confirming it was going ahead with its investigation.
The WA Animal Welfare Act is currently under review, with critics pushing for an amendment that recognises animals are capable of feeling pain and fear.
In a significant development on Friday night, WA Government revealed it had received legal advice that paved the way for charges to be laid against Kevin's killer.
"This is a despicable act," a WA spokesman said in a statement to news.com.au.
"The Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions (DBCA) is investigating the alleged unlawful taking of a kookaburra in Parkerville, in collaboration with the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development, supported by WA Police.
"This is an ongoing investigation and specific details cannot be released. The community is clearly outraged by this act and the WA Police Commissioner has echoed these sentiments in saying the perpetrator should not get off scott free.
"The State Government has received legal advice that animal cruelty provisions of the WA Animal Welfare Act could be applicable and the RSPCA is continuing its investigation into a possible cruelty prosecution.
"The State Government currently has a review of the Animal Welfare Act underway, with an independent panel due to provide advice to the Agriculture Minister next year. Cases likes this will be examined as part of the review."
Witnesses have described Kevin's death in graphic detail, claiming it took place in view of other patrons, including several young children.
One woman, who was celebrating her wedding anniversary at the Parkerville Tavern when the attack took place, said her two children, aged eight and 10, remain traumatised by what they saw.
"Kevin had flown down onto this bloke's plate and the bloke grabbed him and I went 'Oh my god, he's got him' and then he sort of just hesitated for a moment, like seconds, and then put his hands quickly under the table and just ripped his head off," Chantelle, who requested her surname withheld, told The West Australian.
"The bird squawked when he grabbed it, obviously, but the sound of that … it was just horrible and I was just instantly on my feet. It all erupted then, people were very, very angry and yelling abuse at him.
"The thing that got me is he just threw the bird on the floor, he just ditched it on the floor."
On Thursday, Mr Welfare's lawyer Ross Williamson said his client had been forced into hiding following threats to "kill, harm or rape" him.
AAP reported, Mr Welfare's partner had also been targeted, prompting her to move out of her home.
At one stage Mr Williamson insisted Mr Welfare, a labour hire recruiter from Gidgegannup, had left Australia due to ongoing fears for his safety but news.com.au has been unable to verify that claim.
Man accused of ripping Kevin the Kookaburra's head off after it stole a chip from his plate flees Australia as his lawyer tells "vigilantes" to "stop threatening to kill, harm or rape" his client— Marnie O'Neill (@marnieoneill7) October 31, 2019
By @dollyybird @newscomauHQhttps://t.co/zLZEF1iITg
Mr Williamson told news.com.au he would no longer be speaking to the media after his efforts to defend Mr Welfare backfired in spectacular fashion.
In a series of bizarre interviews, the lawyer said kookaburras were considered "an invasive species in WA" and repeatedly referred to Kevin as a "pest" who had been known to peck children.
"The bird should have been dealt with so it was not a menace to public safety," he said in a radio interview.
"Until recently you could shoot (kookaburras) with impunity and people used to do that and get a community service award for doing that sort of thing.
"This particular bird, I have reports about. It has attacked children. It's injured the faces of children … this bird is - or was - a dangerous nuisance animal and the Parkerville Tavern should have done something to deal with it."
But the WA Government told news.com.au in a statement that "kookaburras are considered native fauna under the Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016 as they are native to Australia".
"The penalty for taking native fauna without a licence or other authority may be an infringement of $2500 or a fine of up to $50,000 if the matter is taken to court."