AN indépendant report into the Keinbah trial track has found that at least 99 greyhounds had been killed and buried in a mass grave on the property over a four year period.
The deplorable revelations come after a year long investigation into the property, with the report, led by Clive Steirn SC, finding that most were killed by a blow to the head – either by a gunshot or a blunt instrument.
The killings are believed to have occurred between 2009 and 2013, prior to the property being purchased by its current owners Robert and Natina Howard.
Rumours of a mass grave at Keinbah began circulating last year, however a Greyhound Racing NSW (GRNSW) inquiry found that there was no evidence of a mass grave on the property following a two day disciplinary hearing.
A week later bones were discovered when equipment, being used for fencing, sunk into the ground and revealed skeletal remains of a number of greyhounds.
Mr Steirn SC made the recommendation in his report that GRNSW require a number of implicated individuals to ‘show cause’ as to why disciplinary action should not be taken against them for breaches of the Greyhound Racing Rules.
GRNSW is currently liaising with law enforcement and prosecutorial agencies to determine whether the report discloses any criminal offences.
The full report into the inquiry is set to be released, however GRNSW is currently withholding it so it does not impact on any potential criminal prosecutions.
The news comes less than two weeks after the Baird government announced plans to close down the greyhound racing industry within NSW following the report from the Special Commission of Inquiry.
The Special Commission was led by Justice Michael McHugh, who claimed in his report that systemic cruelty was present within the industry as well as the widespread practice of live baiting and high numbers of wastage.
Paul Newson, who was appointed as the interim CEO of GRNSW following last February’s live baiting scandal, was replaced by an administrator last week, and said in a statement that the timing of the Keinbah report was unfortunate.
“The report findings have confirmed everyone’s worst fears that mass graves have been a feature of the greyhound racing industry and a number of industry participants were involved in horrific and unconscionable acts of animal cruelty which cannot be, if proven, allowed to go unanswered,” Newson said.
“I recognise the timing of the report is unfortunate, falling immediately after the McHugh inquiry and government decision to close down the sport, however, GRNSW must continue to safeguard animal welfare and integrity and take immediate action where misconduct and serious wrongdoing is revealed.”
The decision to appoint Mr Steirn SC as the head of the independent review came after the NSW RSPCA and NSW Police failed to take further investigative action following GRNSW’s initial inquiry.
The investigation was the first full archaeological excavation and forensic examination of a mass grave and its contents in Australia.
“Given the serious nature of the allegations I referred GRNSW’s earlier investigation findings to the NSW RSPCA and NSW Police to consider whether, notwithstanding the potential difficulties, any further action could be taken to investigate the allegations,” Newson said.
“While GRNSW believed it was not best equipped or the most appropriate organisation to conduct major excavation, exhumation and forensic analysis work, in the circumstances, and following confirmation that other agencies did not intend to conduct further investigation, I was persuaded that the current investigation report prepared by Mr Steirn SC was the correct and only path to investigate this matter.
“Although sadly too late to protect the many greyhounds killed, the report shows GRNSW was committed to overcoming past failures, exposing individuals involved in animal cruelty and ridding the industry of participants unable or unwilling to meets its animal welfare and integrity standards.
“GRNSW’s resolve to see this complex and comprehensive investigation to conclusion demonstrates it’s willingness to address our worst problems in the open and be held to account for industry reform and effective supervision of greyhound racing.”
Details of the report which have so far come to light include findings that 95% of dogs excavated and analysed from three seperate sites on the Hunter Valley property had no evidence of any other injury around the time of death.
“Logically, the only probable motive for culling greyhounds in these circumstances leads to a conclusion the animals were being killed for no other reason than that they were found to be underperforming after being trialed, and therefore of no further use,” Mr Steirn SC said.
Also noted in the report was the burial pattern which indicated that 60% of the dogs were buried in groups of two, three, or four, all of which had sustained skull trauma. This happened on a minimum of 11 occasions at the site.
Mr Steirn SC has recommended that the responsible parties be held accountable who allegedly provided false or misleading evidence at prior Stewards’ inquiries.
“It is probable that most of these dogs were killed for reasons other than emergency euthanasia, which was the reason advanced by material witnesses.”