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Dennis the menace dog, who died two weeks after his owner's murder in 2012, will never be able to give the gift of life to a terminally ill pet.Credit:Facebook
The day before he died, Christopher Jackson, 24, gave his terminally ill Yorkshire terrier Dennis a new coat. Their old one, which had developed a nasty red ringworm infection, was due for a major makeover. Jackson had saved up money to buy the new coat and had asked his vet if he could take Dennis to have the surgery in October 2012.
Jackson was planning to retire in a few years and become a farmer, with his parents moving into his childhood home in the United States. Before he died, Jackson was studying to be a massage therapist — but he planned to quit his studies when he found a job in the United States, after which he would “be a dad”, he told friends.
On 14 October 2012, Dennis Jackson was killed on a quiet road in his Surrey suburb of Cheam. His body was found the next day by an officer on routine patrol. The body, partially decomposed, was in the back seat of the car in which he had been traveling with his owner, his legs bound with duct tape.
The dog’s head was in a plastic bag. He had suffocated.
Surrey Police Detective Superintendent Bob Cooper said at the time that Jackson had not been attacked, but had died from what he called an “execution-style” murder.
Dennis’s death, and that of his owner, had huge implications for the crime scene search, Cooper said: “Without his head there was a hole in the story.”
Police found the body on 16 October, and it was quickly identified as Jackson. His death had initially been reported as a suicide, his father called his friends and said his son had committed “suicide by cop” — attempting to use self-defense after being abducted, shot and dumped in a car.
Jackson’s girlfriend broke off their relationship and married another man. A week after his death, she had a baby.
The next day, Cooper arrested a suspect in her house. She had initially described her car as having been stolen, before later admitting she had given him a lift to Cheam, and was then with him in the car when he kidnapped Jackson and drove off.
Jackson’s friends, on learning of his death, immediately became suspicious.
“All the signs were there,” said one. “He changed. He stopped going to the gym. He lost all his friends.”
Other friends said he was worried about the death of his stepson and his own finances.
The dog’s head found in the plastic bag was sent to the Department of Justice laboratory in Melbourne to identify it. The head matched the skull of Jackson’s dogs.
He was buried in a small private ceremony at a local cemetery on 24 October, less than a week after his death.
Jackson’s stepson was in tears, but his funeral was attended by only four friends, and his relatives were not present. His parents did not attend either.
“How is it possible that this happened?” said one of his friends. “He was the most loving, gentle person in the world. I think he would have taken more than anything he could not handle.”
Jackson was known to drink, but he was not abusive to his family or his girlfriend. He was known to have suffered a mental health issue in the past. He had been in Australia for only 18 months, and had no roots in the country.
Police have not said how Jackson died, and the incident remains an unsolved case. It is expected to be listed as an act of homicide, though police have not made any arrests.
It is understood Jackson left Australia before his body was found. He was buried in the cemetery in his hometown of Moulamein. Friends in the United States did not know of his whereabouts until police called them last week, and he has not been seen since.
Jackson was said to be quiet and reserved, but loved the country, and he had expressed a desire to become a farmer. He met his girlfriend while working at a farm in the area.
Moulamein is about 200km northwest of Melbourne. It is a small town with a population of around 3500 people.
A neighbour who spoke to The New Daily told how he had been playing in his front yard at 4am when he was approached by an Aboriginal man who introduced himself as a mate of Jackson’s.
The two were talking when a woman, who police believe was Jackson’s mother, came out of the house in the background. The man continued to talk with her as Jackson put on his hat and his jacket and walked over to him.
“She shook his hand, and they spoke for about 10 minutes,” the neighbour said. “There was no trouble. Nothing unusual.”
Police will not confirm if there were drugs in the area, and no one has been charged.
Detective Inspector David Turner said it was very rare for cases to be recorded as homicide, but added the fact the man was missing suggested there was more to this case than just Jackson’s disappearance.
“At this stage of the investigation, we are not able to confirm the specific reasons why Jackson may be missing or what the nature of his death was,” he said.
Neighbours expressed their shock at the disappearance.
The friend said he saw Jackson, and his partner, with a woman on Tuesday.
Jackson had been living in the area for about three years. Police have conducted door-knock and CCTV inquiries and searched bushland in the local area.
Investigators have not said if they are treating the disappearance as suspicious.