WARNING: Graphic content
A once-respected academic and zoologist sent a chilling message to a stranger about his obsession with raping and torturing pet dogs where he confessed: ‘I can’t stop’.
Adam Britton, 52, pleaded guilty in Darwin’s Supreme Court on Monday to 37 counts of animal cruelty, 10 counts of raping or attempting to rape a dog, and four counts of possessing or transmitting child abuse material.
He confessed to killing at least 39 dogs which he called ‘f*** toys’, filming the abuse of puppies at his sprawling property at McMinns Lagoon, and sharing his depraved interests under pseudonyms online.
He used encrypted messaging app Telegram to confess his crimes to a stranger.
‘I had repressed it,’ he wrote, in a message read to the court.
‘In the last few years I let it out again, and now I can’t stop. I don’t want to.’
Adam Britton (pictured) told a stranger on Telegram that he stopped trying to suppress his violent urges
Britton confessed his sickening crimes to a stranger on encrypted messaging app Telegram
The court also heard he sexually abused his own Swiss Shepherd pets, Ursa and Bolt, for almost a decade until he eventually took to Gumtree to source more dogs to kill.
However, until he was arrested Britton managed to keep his disturbing fantasies a secret – including from his wife.
It was only two years ago that he was an esteemed researcher at Charles Darwin University who attracted international recognition for his work as a crocodile conservationist with his wife and business partner, Erin.
About six months prior to his arrest in April 2022, the couple – who were married for more than 15 years – were interviewed about their research on ABC News and Triple J’s news program, Hack.
During a Covid lockdown in 2020, the couple filmed themselves feeding a freshwater crocodile called Njall on their property before posting it on Facebook.
Adam Britton is pictured with his wife, Erin. They were married for at least 15 years
Britton not only tortured and sexually abused his own pets Ursa and Bolt (pictured together), who he created an Instagram page for, but also dogs from pet owners he had lured into his trap through the online marketplace platform Gumtree Australia
In the video, Britton faced the camera and said: ‘Hello everyone, Adam here. Well, we’re at home at the moment and we’ve got to feed the crocodiles.
‘So what I’m going to do is, I’m going to hand this camera to Erin – say ‘hi’, Erin.’
Ms Britton smiled into the lens and said, enthusiastically, ‘Hi everybody,’ before she took the camera and filmed her husband feeding chicken legs to Njall with a large pair of tongs.
There is no suggestion whatsoever that Ms Britton, a biologist and wildlife ranger who has assisted in a range of projects on sea turtles and counting crocodiles, knew anything about her husband’s crimes or obsessions, and she appears to have dropped his surname.
The National Geographic website suggests she will be on international wildlife expeditions for the next six months, and there is no mention in her bio of her husband and former business partner.
Britton was a crocodile expert who set up a consultancy company with his wife
Adam Britton (centre) with his wife Erin (left) and David Attenborough (right) during filming for a BBC documentary
Britton grew up in England and received his Ph.D. in Zoology at the University of Bristol before moving to Australia after 1996 to pursue his fascination with crocodiles.
He met his future wife and they set up a consultancy company, Big Gecko, which sold footage of crocodiles to television and film directors. They worked with natural history shows with the BBC and National Geographic.
Their saltwater crocodile, Smaug, became something of a celebrity in his field and appeared in two horror films.
Britton was a shameless self-promoter and would often update his social media profiles with photos of his crocodiles, property, and media clippings.
While he managed to hide his sick fantasies, one of the more disturbing posts on his public Facebook page was a post celebrating his Swiss Shepherd Bolt’s first birthday in 2016.
The post included a photo of Bolt as a puppy in 2015. According to the court on Monday, Britton started sexually abusing his own dogs in 2014.
Many of his crimes against animals were so graphic and disturbing that Daily Mail Australia has chosen not to publish them.
In 2016, Britton uploaded a photo of one of his dogs, Bolt, as a puppy (pictured)
The court heard Britton started abusing his dogs, Ursa and Bolt (pictured), in 2014
Prosecutors told the court on Monday he had a Telegram account which was used to engage with ‘like-minded people’, and another which was used to disseminate images and recordings of the abuse.
‘Using these applications, the offender discussed his ‘kill count’,’ prosecutor Marty Aust said.
His account had 114 threads where he described how he acquired the pets and how he abused them.
Britton sourced other canines off Gumtree from unsuspecting owners in the Darwin region.
The court heard he built rapport with the owners and negotiated taking custody of their pets, many of whom reluctantly gave their pets away due to travel or work commitments.
In one scenario, Britton sent a message to the owners of a large brown dog to reassure them the animal was ‘settling in well’.
‘Wolfe was relaxed and eating well and enjoying her new home,’ the message read.
The prosecutor told the court the already been ‘sexually exploited, tortured and killed’.
Last year, police seized 44 items including computers, mobile telephones, cameras, external hard drives, tools and weapons during a raid of his home.
They also found 15 child abuse material files on his laptop.
After pleading guilty to all charges on Monday, Chief Justice Michael Grant warned the gallery the facts of the offending detailed ‘acts that could only be described as grotesque cruelty which are both confronting and distressing’.
‘Which in my assessment have the potential to cause nervous shock or some other adverse psychological reaction to a person exposed to those details,’ he said.
Britton was charged last year, but his name was suppressed by the courts to ensure media attention would not bias a jury against him.
The order was lifted after his pleaded guilty on Monday.
His matter is set to return to court on December 13 for sentencing submissions.