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Matt Wright’s former mate in court for harassing reality TV couple after croc ripped his fingers off

Headshot of Kristin Shorten
Kristin Shorten
The Nightly
Jock Fleming pleaded guilty to three counts of using a carriage service to harass celebrity croc-wrangler Matt Wright and his wife Kaia.
Jock Fleming pleaded guilty to three counts of using a carriage service to harass celebrity croc-wrangler Matt Wright and his wife Kaia. Credit: facebook

A man whose fingers were ripped off by a crocodile at one of Matt Wright’s resorts has been convicted of menacing the celebrity croc-wrangler and his wife with drunken messages on social media.

Jock Duncan Fleming this week pleaded guilty to three counts of using a carriage service to harass Wright and his wife Kaia between October 2022 and November 2023.

The Darwin Local Court heard Fleming, 28, sent the couple threatening messages following the fatal chopper crash that killed Netflix star Chris Wilson and left pilot Sebastian Robinson paraplegic in February 2022.

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Mr Fleming’s lawyer Peter Maley said there was an “unusual back story” to the case which provided context to his client’s “unsophisticated offending”.

“He was good friends with Mr Matt Wright and they had a long social friendship until about four years ago when, during the course of a bucks night, the boys are out and they’re flying around in helicopters and they landed at a croc farm owned by Matt Wright,” he said.

“And during the course of some behaviour, one of the crocodiles latched onto his hand and ripped his fingers off.

“That was about four years ago. So from that moment on, the relationship was broken up.”

The incident Mr Maley was referring to occurred on May 3, 2020, at Wright’s Top End Safari Camp, southwest of Darwin.

“So he’s been attacked by a crocodile with his mate Matt. They’re now no longer friends,” he told the court.

“His good friend Sebastian Robinson, he was the helicopter pilot who was flying the helicopter that crashed when that fatality occurred at Arnhem Land … and Mr Robinson is now paraplegic.

“So that crash and what happened to his best friend coupled with the serious injury to his hand and the PTSD brought everything back to him and he sent those silly, inappropriate texts.”

Outback Wrangler Matt Wright and pilot Michael Burbidge were charged in relation to the chopper crash that killed Chris Wilson in February 2022.
Outback Wrangler Matt Wright and pilot Michael Burbidge were charged in relation to the chopper crash that killed Chris Wilson in February 2022. Credit: CareFlight

Mr Maley said Fleming was drunk when he sent the first two messages and that since the third message – which was a link to an NT News article – he has “really pulled his head in”.

“The third text was sent to Mr Wright’s partner enclosing a copy of an article referring to Matt Wright, and the consequences which might follow,” he said.

“He says that with this complicated history, every time he sees something about Matt Wright and crocodiles in the paper, he re-lives the moment that this huge crocodile latched on to his hand at the bucks night for about 30 seconds of spinning around and ripping his fingers off.

“He says that in itself is something he’s had to deal with and come to terms with.”

Judge Therese Austin said the backstory put Fleming’s actions “in perspective” but did not excuse his serious offending, especially “in the context of their vulnerability with the bigger picture” regarding the fatal chopper crash.

“It’s the whole reason why your client’s communicating with them in the first place and it’s put a mother and her children specifically … in a fearful position even though she probably was quite fearful to start with perhaps,” she said.

“It’s all exacerbated and it’s just ill-advised and it’s really, it’s criminal conduct, but it’s just way out there. It’s just not helping anybody and not helping the situation.”

Mr Wright and his wife Kaia run multiple tourism operations in the NT.
Mr Wright and his wife Kaia run multiple tourism operations in the NT. Credit: Instagram

Judge Austin said Fleming’s “vengeful type of act” seemed to be a culmination of indistinguishable events.

“I can’t work out whether it’s the (fatal) accident that’s caused him to behave his way or whether it’s the crocodile,” she said.

“He’s got himself all mixed up in something that he shouldn’t have entered the arena in because it’s got a bit of a vigilante-type element to it.

“He’s taken it into his hands to let them know directly, directly, what his personal opinion is about an incident where he’s formed a view but the threats have gone too far in the sense that he’s communicated with the wife and she’s afraid.

“Regardless of what has or hasn’t happened, and how it’s gonna pan out, this sort of communication is so, not just ill-advised, it’s scary and it’s unacceptable.”

Ms Wright’s victim impact statement said Fleming’s messages had caused her anxiety and made her feel “progressively more and more unsafe”.

“Going out to the shops or in social situations made me feel scared to run into Jock and that he might abuse me in front of my kids,” she said.

“Even now, I am always on edge in public in case I run into him, not knowing what he might do. I wonder about what his frame of mind is and worry that things might escalate. “The biggest impact for me was actually feeling scared at home with the children on the nights Matt is away.”

Sebastian Robinson with Chris Wilson.
Sebastian Robinson with Chris Wilson. Credit: Supplied

Judge Austin said it was clear the “impact on the complainants is significant”.

“Of course there are a lot of other matters that are impacting on her mental health and her fear and her stressors,” she said.

“Obviously, this defendant is not responsible for all of those stressors and impacts, but the exacerbation of the messages has affected her and she’s clearly on high alert … worrying about meeting him and what would happen.

“He’s not responsible for all of the circumstances that have contributed to her stress … but unfortunately, his errors of judgement and his decision to communicate his feelings of distress, obviously about his very good friend (Wilson) passing which, of course, might be understandable that he might have an opinion, that’s not the issue. It’s how he dealt with that.

“I do appreciate that the impact on this complainant about this behaviour has been very significant but at the same time, I’m not judging who was right, wrong, green or brindle, about that other big incident.”

Judge Austin said that regardless of the background, the messages – which were not read out – contained “frightening language” which “can’t be misinterpreted” but that mitigating factors, Fleming’s early guilty plea and lack of relevant criminal history meant he would avoid jail.

Instead, he was convicted and released on a 12-month good behaviour bond with the condition that he does not contact the Wrights.

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