Another Outback Victory for Salerno Law as Livestock Agent’s Cattle Rustling Charges dropped by the Western Australian DPP

Daniel Leonard Wood, pictured, has had cattle rustling charges dropped after a two-year legal battle.  A well-known stock agent accused of being involved in the State’s most elaborate cattle rustling operation has had his charges dropped after a two-year legal battle.

Daniel Leonard Wood was charged with money/property laundering after WA’s rural crime squad launched an investigation into the theft of about 800 cattle worth $803,000 from Mardie Station, in the Pilbara, in March 2021.  It was alleged Mr Wood — who pleaded not guilty to all charges and was due to stand trial in November — used his position as a Nutrien stock agent to sell the stolen cattle.

In a statement released on Monday by Emma Salerno, Salerno CEO & Partner Lawyer representing Mr Wood, a spokeswoman said all charges against Mr Wood had been dropped.

“Following a tumultuous two-year battle to defend Mr Wood’s innocence, the Director of Public Prosecutions has today formally discontinued the prosecution against him,” the statement said. “Mr Wood, co-owner of Great Western Livestock and Land, was charged with multiple criminal offences with WA Police accusing him of having sold stolen cattle.” “Mr Wood, who does not have a criminal record and has never been on the wrong side of the law, was accused of being part of a so-called ‘criminal enterprise’ involving the stealing and laundering of cattle. “Mr Wood has always vehemently denied this harmful and costly accusation and he was grateful to Nutrien who stood in support of Mr Wood throughout the last two years.”

The statement goes on to say that the accusations against Mr Wood “could not have been further from the truth” but “the damage has been done”.

“Mr Wood has dedicated his whole life to the agricultural industry and has worked exceptionally hard to build his reputation as a dedicated and respected stock agent,” the spokeswoman said. The accusations were, and continue to be devastating to Mr Wood, his family, his business, and his livelihood. “The accusations were, and continue to be devastating to Mr Wood, his family, his business, and his livelihood. “Most concerningly, there was no evidence that Mr Wood received any financial advantage of being involved with the alleged criminal enterprise. “Mr Wood only received his usual commission for the sale of the allegedly stolen cattle, a sum of $2,389.48. “There was simply no motive or incentive for Mr Wood to be involved in any scheme to steal cattle, given that he was the elected cattle agent for most of the property owners in that region.”

The DPP agreed to discontinue the prosecution against Mr Wood last week, with the decision formalised in the District Court on April 24. It comes after Mr Wood voluntarily provided a statement to WA Police and Salerno Law made detailed submissions to the DPP arguing the case against him “lacked sufficient evidence” and “had no reasonable prospects”. The spokeswoman said it was a “bittersweet outcome” for Mr Wood and his family, who maintained the evidence against him was “ill-concieved” and the charges “should never have been brought by the DPP in the first place”.

“The ordeal has been hugely detrimental to Mr Wood’s family and his business,” she said, adding that it had “created a lifetime of reputational harm.” “Mr Wood and his family are now looking forward to putting this ordeal behind them and moving on with their lives, while continuing to serve their loyal clients in the WA cattle industry.”

A Nutrien spokeswoman confirmed Mr Wood was still employed as a livestock agent for the company. Mr Wood was among several people charged in relation to what has been dubbed WA’s biggest alleged cattle rustling bust.

Pastoralists Richard Arends and his partner Rachael Third, who owned Edmund Station in the Gascoyne at the time, are awaiting trial on multiple charges, while Mardie Station caretaker Steven McDowall was jailed for two years in September for his part in the heist. Mr Arends and Ms Third have pleaded not guilty to a combined total of nearly 700 charges ranging from stealing and property laundering to attempting to pervert the course of justice.

During McDowall’s sentencing, the WA District Court was told the 65-year-old stole 342 head of cattle worth almost $200,000 from Mardie Station, which were then sold under the mark of Edmund Station. McDowall was convicted of taking part in five separate thefts of Mardie Station cattle, as well as feral cattle that had wandered near or on to Mardie Station from vacant crown land, between May and September 2020.

If the crown does not claim ownership of feral cattle once they are on a station, they then legally belong to that station, which meant those stolen were considered the property of Mardie Station. On each occasion, McDowall — who received $44,000 for his part in the crime and has agreed to testify against his co-accused — organised for Mr Arends’ company, Carnarvon-based RR Helicopters, to undertake a legitimate muster of cattle. The cattle were then branded as Edmund Station cattle and paperwork was filled out which had allegedly been organised by Mr Arends.