A DISPUTE over a dog escaping from a house at East Maitland in NSW's Hunter region and approaching young children spiralled into tit-for-tat confrontations before a man was repeatedly struck with a tomahawk during a wild brawl in his frontyard.
James Reece Fogarty, 24, who was armed with the tomahawk, his ex-partner Rebecca Doubleday and her new boyfriend Jai Ryan Duley have all pleaded guilty to their roles in the brawl.
While two others allegedly involved have fled to Queensland, where one of them is believed to have since died.
It all started when a dog escaped from a house in Alliance Street at East Maitland on the afternoon of July 13 last year.
The dog - which Doubleday told police was a Pitbull cross Shar Pei - approached her children outside her house in nearby Bruce Street.
Duley yelled at the dog before walking down to the house in Alliance Street and arguing with the owner. He kicked her fence and went home. Upset, the dog's owner called her partner, a 35-year-old man, who decided to confront Duley and Doubleday at their house.
After that Doubleday called in reinforcements and her ex-partner Fogarty and his friends drove over and the group descended on the house in Alliance Street.
Everything seemed relatively civil; the 35-year-old said he did not want any "drama over the dog" and the men agreed to shake hands and "sort it out".
But when Fogarty bizarrely became involved in a fight with a member of his own group and pulled out the tomahawk all hell broke lose.
As the 35-year-old man watched on as two strangers shaped up in his front yard, one of the others sucker punched him in the head.
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The pair began wrestling before Fogarty walked over and repeatedly struck the 35-year-old victim in the back and ribs with the tomahawk. When the man fell to the ground, Fogarty kept smashing him with the tomahawk, leaving him a bloody mess with 11 lacerations that required surgery and fractures to his ribs, clavicle, spine and fingers.
The group fled while police and paramedics were being called, with emergency services arriving to find traumatised children and the 35-year-old bleeding profusely.
Fogarty went home, disabled his CCTV and burned his clothes. A few days later he flew to the Sunshine Coast where he was arrested by Queensland police as soon as the plane touched down.
Fogarty has pleaded guilty to wounding person with intent to cause grievious bodily harm and will next appear in Newcastle District Court on July 21 to get a sentence date.
Meanwhile, Duley and Doubleday pleaded guilty to reckless wounding in company and will be sentenced in Maitland Local Court in August.
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