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Old 28th May 2007, 11:21 PM   #1
Your friendly local necromancer
Join Date: Mar 2006
Location: Te Awamutu, New Zealand
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New Zealand Lion Man Assault

I can't believe I'm wading into this debate but here goes...

Background: "The Lion Man" Craig Busch is a well-known New Zealand lion tamer/keeper who had his own television show about his lion park and efforts to save the great animals. In 2005 he came home to find his partner Karen naked in bed with another couple and dragged her from the bed, injuring her in the process. He has recently been convicted of assault for the incident.

Now we're in the media-fuelled "he said, she said" round of the process. TVNZ got the first scoop with Craig's side of the story, to which TV3 countered with a 60 Minutes piece giving Karen's version.

I don't think many people would condone the assault. Whatever really happened, it does seem that Craig was behaving violently, or at least aggressively. Not cool under any circumstances.

The reason there has been a lot of public support for Craig (which is highly unusual for someone who has admitted assaulting a female) is the extreme provocation. We've all imagined what it would be like coming home to this scene and wondered how we would react. I'd like to think I would just leave, but how can you really know what it would be like? I recall finding out that the woman I was in love with had been having an affair and I can tell you the emotions are impossible to describe. It's hard not to be sympathetic to someone who had to walk in to a room and see it.

Just a reminder, I do not condone any sort of violence. Craig was punished and rightly so - we cannot have a society where assault goes unpunished. I'm just saying there is a good case for "mitigating circumstances" here.

Anyway, let's talk about the version of events described by Karen and the South African couple she was in bed with. Not because it would serve any useful purpose to do so, but because I'm just like other Kiwis and I can't resist talking about it.

First of all, Karen tried to paint Craig as a wolf in sheep's clothing. Rather than a gentle animal-loving man, she claimed he is a short-tempered animal abuser. To back this up she presented a couple of video shots showing Craig "mistreating" animals. Well call me callous but I couldn't see it. There was half a shot of a lion club being given a clip around the ear and a couple of shots of Aslan being forcefully led and then having his ears flicked. Aslan didn't even flinch at the ear-flicking and the other shots looked like they could easily have been genuine attempts to make the animals behave. Go to any New Zealand race day and see how the horses are "led" into the gates - this is much more dramatic than what Craig was doing. I wonder if the dragging shot had been accompanied by a different voiceover what the message might have been... perhaps a jovial narrator saying "Aslan's being a bit stubborn today so Craig needs to lay down the law". Quite a different effect.

So I'm thinking.... You've been living with this guy for how long? With cameras running day and night, and these shots are all you have to show that he's not a nice guy? Frankly I'd give that round to Craig.

Next we get to the infamous evening. Apparently Craig had earlier told Karen that their relationship was over, or implied as much. Of course we only have Karen's word on that. So while Craig is out Karen goes up to the bedroom where the couple are staying to seek comfort (not sex as has been assumed by the public).

Karen backs up the "no sex" scenario by saying she had recently undergone a "D&C" gynaecological procedure which would have made intercourse uncomfortable. Fair enough, but no-one was saying that intercourse was happening - anyone who thinks a sexual threesome must include intercourse is lacking imagination. Anyway, I know of a woman who happily had intercourse the day after giving birth. In short, the D&C argument was irrelevant.

Back to the bedroom. Distraught, Karen begins undressing. In her mind that's quite appropriate and not at all sexual. The couple agree that this is perfectly normal and non-arousing, so they ask her to lie between them so they can comfort her (nakedly). The ladies kiss, but again, it's not sexual.

And that's it. That's the explanation. Not even so much as "it was hot so I took some clothes off". When pressed about why she needed to be naked to be consoled, Karen declines to answer. "Because I felt like it" were her words.

Oh dear. Round two to Craig.

Next there is the assault itself. Craig's version on Close Up sounded a little thin, it wouldn't surprise me if he was being frugal with the facts. He seemed suspiciously unclear about how the injuries had occurred - "Maybe the wine glass or something". On the other hand Karen and the couple described a brutal assault scene, after which they were given their marching orders.

This is where things become alarming. The couple say they were "torn" about what to do and weren't happy about leaving Karen and Craig alone. WHAT? After the horriffic scene they had just described, they were "torn" about whether to leave? Come on, any reasonable person would have put Karen's safety first and taken her with them, or done something to protect her. The couple didn't even call the police. They just drove away and left someone they describe as a dear friend to the mercy of a violent maniac.

This story just doesn't stack up. Round three goes to Craig.

Yet again, we have a situation where it's one side's version against the others and we're left to judge without knowing the facts. And judge we will, because it's too interesting not to.

Here's my armchair judgement:

(1) Craig is no angel. He has a previous conviction and he admitted this assault. He should work on his anger issues before it happens again. However there is nothing to suggest his treatment of animals or his commitment to their well-being is anything but genuine.

(2) Karen and the South African couple have presented what appears to be a hatchet job on Craig, filled with accounts that lack credibility.

Conclusion: The Lion Man committed a spontaneous crime of passion, then the Lioness committed a calculated act of revenge. Neither was pretty.

For mine, I'll forgive Craig because of the mitigating circumstances and I would be happy to watch another series of the Lion Man sans partner. My suggestion for the first episode would be for him to talk about how he's dealing with his anger issues and the steps he's taking to make sure he never acts violently again.
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Old 20th November 2008, 12:54 PM   #2
Your friendly local necromancer
Join Date: Mar 2006
Location: Te Awamutu, New Zealand
Posts: 100
Thread Closed

Since I posed the message above about 18 months ago, I've had about 3 pages worth of replies to this thread. For the most part messages were fair but the thread was steadily getting more out of hand, especially recently with Craig back in the news. Then the lawyers finally got involved (don't know what took them so long) and I've decided to bin all the replies and close the whole thing. Sorry.
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