Edmonton

Man sentenced to 2 years for drowning two cats, abusing a third

James Ng was sentenced Thursday in Edmonton Court of Queen's Bench after admitting to killing two animals and willfully causing unnecessary pain, suffering or injury to another. 

Warning: Story contains graphic details some may find disturbing

Picasso (left) and DaVinci (right) were attacked by James Ng in July, 2017. He drowned Picasso and tried unsuccessfully to do the same to DaVinci. (Safe Team Rescue)

A 38-year-old former banker convicted of drowning his girlfriend's two pet cats in a bathtub and abusing a third will serve two years in jail.

James Ng was sentenced Thursday in Edmonton Court of Queen's Bench after admitting to killing two animals and willfully causing unnecessary pain, suffering or injury to all three cats. 

Ng will serve two years less a day on his concurrent sentence, followed by two years probation. He was handed a lifetime prohibition on owning pets of any kind.

He will also be required to follow any mental health treatment advice recommended by his probation officer, upon his release and he must immediately submit a DNA sample to the national database.

Each offence carried a maximum penalty of five years in prison. 

Ng, who represented himself in court, accepted the sentence.  He addressed the judge before the sentence was handed down and said his crimes have been a "nightmare for all involved."

'No excuse, no explanation'

He agreed with the Crown's suggestion that he should serve time and never interact with animals again. 

"There is no excuse, no explanation for what has occurred," Ng said in court. "I am guilty as charged and deserve what I get. 

"Two years in custody seems appropriate, perhaps even light."

In the summer of 2017, Ng was living in a downtown Edmonton apartment with his girlfriend and two cats she adopted from Safe Team Animal Rescue.

Picasso was about six months old and DaVinci was between four and five months old. The cats were described as tame and friendly. 

The crimes occurred over a two-year period in the downtown apartment Ng shared with his girlfriend.

In July 2017, his partner had gone to work when she received a text from Ng. He wrote that they needed to talk after work and that "it would change everything."

When she got home, she spotted DaVinci walking through the apartment, but there was no sign of Picasso. She asked Ng where the missing cat was and whether the animal was dead.

She asked Ng if he had killed Picasso and he admitted he had drowned the cat.

Ng told his girlfriend that when he woke up that morning, he went to pet Picasso but the cat had hissed at him. Ng said he bacame angry, so he repeatedly hit the cat on the head.

When it began urinating and defecating from fear, Ng took the animal to the bathtub, turned on the tap, held the cat around the neck and forced it underwater.

Ng said he tried to perform CPR on the cat but gave up when it wasn't successful.

Ng then tried to drown DaVinci but failed when the second cat "put up a fight."

The attacks happened at around 9 a.m. Ng said he went back to sleep an hour later, after placing the cat's body in a storage room. 

Ng had previously killed one of his girlfriend's cats years before but kept it a secret.

In 2015, Ng's girlfriend was in Hong Kong for two months. During that time, Ng told her, he had left the screen door open and their cat Ms. P. had disappeared.

Ng told her he had put up missing posters and had searched for the cat with no luck.

On the same day that he admitted to his attacks on DaVinci and Picasso, Ng confessed he had drowned Ms. P. in the bathtub.

The court heard that Ng's girlfriend left the apartment after she found out what he had done, and the surviving cat was returned to the animal rescue.

Ng's former partner did not submit a victim impact statement to the court on Thursday because she was too "horrified and petrified" by what happened to recall the crimes, said Crown prosecutor Christian Lim.

"She does not want to remember," Lim said.

Lim described the crimes as "saddening and horrific" and suggested there were "grave concerns" that Ng could reoffend.

"Not only was it violent, it was very painful," Lim said. "There is a concern with respect to future violent crimes, not just to animals."

Despite his concerns with Ng's chances for rehabilitation, the Crown had recommended a sentence of two years.

Lim said the recommended sentence from the Crown showed "extreme restraint," and told the judge the courts were "sort of playing a gambling game" with the case. 

"We've gone as low as we can go here but the sentence still has to send a strong message." 

I am a small, angry, passive-aggressive man who believes in physical punishment and I would like to change that.- James Ng

In the courtroom Thursday, Ng said he wanted to work through his mental health issues and pledged to never pursue pet ownership or a career which involved interaction with vulnerable people.

Ng admitted he was quick to anger and said his own crimes, as described in the agreed statement of facts, were "disturbing truths."

"I am a small, angry, passive-aggressive man who believes in physical punishment and I would like to change that." 

'These animals would have suffered'

In handing down his sentence, Justice Paul Belzil said the accused had no previous criminal record and appeared intelligent but the nature of his violent crimes was concerning. 

Belzil urged Ng to seek help upon his release. 

He said Ng abused and killed defenceless animals, cats he noted each weighed less than five pounds. 

"I accept without hesitation that these animals would have suffered greatly due to these events.

"Animals are not humans, but they are nonetheless living creatures. 

"You were in a position of trust … and there was deception." 

Safe Team Animal Rescue volunteer Bev Betkowski speaks with Crown prosecutor Christian Lim following Thursday's judgement. (Wallis Snowdon/CBC)

Belzil said changes to the Criminal Code adopted in 2008 means harsher sentences for those convicted of animal cruelty.

"Parliament has spoken and the courts need to reflect that," Belzil said. 

Ng, who is currently unemployed, has been living in Ajax, Ont. The judge recommended he seek a transfer from Alberta so he could serve his sentence closer to his parents.

Ng's mother attended the hearing on Thursday and informally addressed the judge, requesting that her son's surrender be delayed by a few days until she could return home. The judge agreed and Ng will surrender to the court Friday after driving his mother to the airport.

'Loved beyond all measure'

More than a dozen volunteers with Safe Team Animal Rescue attended the courtroom and gave Lim a round of applause in the foyer after court was adjourned.

Volunteer Bev Betkowski said the sentence sets an important precedent and provides a modicum of closure to her fellow volunteers who were horrified by Ng's crimes. 

"It has been a long journey and today was a real accomplishment," Betkowski said.

"It's something that will help us get through the loss that was experienced, the trauma that volunteers suffered in knowing how these cats suffered.

"We see this as a hopeful sign that this kind of thing will become less acceptable and treated more harshly in the courts. 

Betkowski said the surviving cat was adopted by one of the agency's longtime volunteers and now spends her days surrounded by a caring family.

"She is living a wonderful life now," she said. "She is loved beyond all measure." 

About the Author

Wallis Snowdon

Journalist

Wallis Snowdon is a digital journalist with CBC Edmonton. She has nearly a decade of experience reporting behind her. Originally from New Brunswick, her journalism career has taken her from Nova Scotia to Fort McMurray. Share your stories with Wallis at wallis.snowdon@cbc.ca

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