A British crocodile expert has pleaded guilty to raping puppies and torturing more than 40 dogs – including his own pets Ursa and Bolt – at his Australian animal shelter after luring owners to give him custody of their beloved canines.
Adam Britton, 51, who grew up in West Yorkshire before moving to Australia, began his offending in 2014 and tortured and sexually exploited more than 42 dogs he had called ‘f*** toys’ until his arrest in April 2022.
Britton, an academic at Charles Darwin University in northern Australia who once hosted legendary broadcaster David Attenborough at his home, tortured 39 of those dogs to death in a horrific case of animal cruelty that has shocked the nation.
The married zoologist sexually abused his own Swiss shepherd pets, Ursa and Bolt, for almost a decade. He eventually expanded to Gumtree Australia to source more dogs to torture and kill at his sprawling rural estate at McMinns Lagoon on the northern tip of Australia.
Britton would even film himself hurting the defenceless animals in what he called his ‘torture room’ – a shipping container fitted with recording equipment – and post the sick material online, the court heard.
Britton, a leading zoologist who has worked with the BBC and National Geographic on productions, stood calmly as he pleaded guilty to 47 counts of animal cruelty at the Supreme Court of the Northern Territory yesterday.
He also pleaded guilty to four counts of accessing and transmitting child abuse material, including of toddlers being forced to engage in depraved acts. Britton will be sentenced at a later date.
Britton is an academic at Charles Darwin University in Australia who once hosted legendary broadcaster David Attenborough, and presented on BBC programme Natural World
In 2016, Britton uploaded this photo of one of his dogs, Bolt, as a puppy. The court heard how Britton sexually abused and tortured the dog
The court heard Britton started abusing his dogs, Ursa and Bolt (pictured as an adult), in 2014
Adam Britton (centre) with his wife Erin (left) and David Attenborough (right) during filming for a BBC documentary Cold Blood
The details of Britton’s crimes are so horrific and ‘grotesque’ that Chief Justice Michael Grant urged the public and security staff to leave the courtroom before the prosecutors outlined the facts of the case in a rare move.
‘These facts contain material that can only be described as grotesque and perverse acts of cruelty which is confronting and distressing and which in my assessment have the potential to cause nervous shock,’ he said. Much of the details surrounding Britton’s offending are also too gruesome to be published.
Prosecutors told the court how Britton, who hosted Attenborough while the broadcaster filmed part of the BBC’s Life in Cold Blood docuseries at his property, has a ‘sadistic sexual interest’ in animals, in particular dogs, since at least 2014.
Britton’s wife Erin, a wildlife ranger who met Prince Harry and helped him catch a saltwater crocodile, was unaware of her husband’s disturbing fantasies and has since reportedly changed her surname.
Britton would use Gumtree Australia to target pet owners across the Darwin region who were often reluctantly giving their pets away due to work or travel commitments, the court heard.
Setting up alerts on the site for when a new dog or puppy was listed for sale in the area, he would build a ‘rapport’ with the unsuspecting owners in order to negotiate taking custody of their dogs, prosecutor Marty Aust said.
If the pet owners reached out and asked Britton for updates on their old pets, he would spin a ‘false narrative’ to say they were healthy and send them old photos.
In one scenario, Britton sent a message to the owners of a large brown dog to reassure them the animal was ‘settling in well’.
‘Wolfe was relaxed and eating well and enjoying her new home,’ the message wrote.
But unbeknownst to the previous owners the dog had already been ‘sexually exploited, tortured and killed,’ Mr Aust said.
Britton not only tortured and sexually abused his own pets Ursa and Bolt (pictured together), who he created an Instagram page for, but also dogs from pet owners he had lured into his trap through the online marketplace platform Gumtree Australia
The married zoologist had sexually abused his own Swiss Shepherd pets, Ursa and Bolt (pictured as a puppy in 2015), for almost a decade before he eventually expanded to Gumtree Australia to source more dogs to torture and kill at his sprawling rural estate at McMinns Lagoon on the northern tip of Australia
Britton’s wife Erin (left), a wildlife ranger who met Prince Harry (top right) and helped him catch a saltwater crocodile, was unaware of her husband’s disturbing fantasies and has since reportedly changed her surname
Britton’s wife Erin met Prince Harry and helped him catch a saltwater crocodile
Adam Britton, 51, began his offending in 2014 and tortured and sexually exploited more than 42 dogs until his arrest in April 2022
Britton, a leading zoologist who has worked with the BBC and National Geographic on productions, stood calmly as he pleaded guilty to 56 counts of animal cruelty at the Supreme Court of the Northern Territory yesterday
Prosecutors told the court how Britton has a ‘sadistic sexual interest’ in animals and in particular dogs since at least 2014
Britton, who grew up in West Yorkshire in the UK before moving to Australia 20 years ago, would share videos and images of himself sexually exploiting the dogs on Telegram under accounts titled ‘Monster’ and ‘Cerberus’ – named after Dante’s three-headed dog in Greek mythology who guarded the gates to hell.
Prosecutors told the court on Monday he used one Telegram account to engage with ‘like-minded people’, and another which was used to disseminate images and recordings of the abuse.
‘Using these applications, the offender discussed his “kill count”,’ prosecutor Marty Aust said.
In a message read to the court, Britton spoke about his urges to a stranger on Telegram: ‘I had repressed it. In the last few years I let it out again, and now I can’t stop. I don’t want to.’
His account had 114 threads where he described how he acquired the pets, how he abused them and how he disposed of their bodies.
Britton boasted that he would tell pet owners on Gumtree Australia that his old dog had died of cancer and he wanted a ‘new family member’ – and that the tactic hardly ever failed.
‘Owner is looking for a good “forever home” for their beloved pooch, make sure you offer them one… telling them you want a new family member after your old dog died from cancer last year hardly ever fails,’ Britton posted in the Monster Telegram account.
A video was eventually sent to the Northern Territory Animal Welfare Branch and passed on to police who arrested Britton in April 2022. At the time, police seized 44 items including computers, mobile telephones, cameras, external hard drives, tools, weapons, sex toys and dog paraphernalia.
Britton was charged last year, but his name was suppressed by the courts to ensure media attention would not bias a jury against him.
The order was lifted after his pleaded guilty on Monday. He has been remanded in custody since then.
Britton was a prominent crocodile expert in northern Australia and a senior researcher at Charles Darwin University. None of his offending is alleged to have been against the reptiles.
He is set to return to court on December 13 for sentencing submissions.
It was only two years ago that he was an esteemed researcher at Charles Darwin University who attracted international recognition for his work as a crocodile conservationist with his wife and business partner, Erin.
There is no suggestion whatsoever that Erin, a biologist and wildlife ranger who has assisted in a range of projects on sea turtles and counting crocodiles, knew anything about her husband’s crimes or obsessions, and she appears to have dropped his surname.
The National Geographic website suggests she will be on international wildlife expeditions for the next six months, and there is no mention in her bio of her husband and former business partner.
Britton grew up in England and received his Ph.D. in Zoology at the University of Bristol before moving to Australia after 1996 to pursue his fascination with crocodiles.
Adam Britton is pictured with his wife, Erin. They were married for at least 15 years
Britton, who grew up in West Yorkshire in the UK before moving to Australia 20 years ago, would share videos and images of himself sexually exploiting the dogs on online forums under pseudonyms
He met his future wife and they set up a consultancy company, Big Gecko, which sold footage of crocodiles to television and film directors. They worked with natural history shows with the BBC and National Geographic.
Their saltwater crocodile, Smaug, became something of a celebrity in his field and appeared in two horror films.
Britton was a shameless self-promoter and would often update his social media profiles with photos of his crocodiles, property, and media clippings.
While he managed to hide his sick fantasies, one of the more disturbing posts on his public Facebook page was a post celebrating his Swiss Shepherd Bolt’s first birthday in 2016.
The post included a photo of Bolt as a puppy in 2015. According to the court on Monday, Britton started sexually abusing his own dogs in 2014.