A weird (and despicable) version of the “Twinkie Defense”: A guy kidnaps and rapes a women, and claims that a funnel-web spider bite made him sick enough to do it. WTF elements abound in this story.

The guy was a total scumbag:

“He threatened her with a knife before tying her up and gagging her. After subjecting her to a four-hour sexual assault and cleaning her body with methylated spirits in an attempt to erase evidence of the rape, he left her tied up in the boot of a car for more than two hours before telephoning her mother to say where she could be found. The following day he used his victim’s stolen cashcard to withdraw money from her bank account.”

His defense? The spider made me do it:

“He later pleaded guilty to the crime but said in mitigation that 12 days before the assault he had been bitten by a funnel-web spider. He claimed that although he had been treated with an antidote he had suffered headaches and sensitivity to light, altering his state of mind.”

Funnel-web spiders in Australia are indeed scary, but there is No. Freakin. Way. that a bite and subsequent treatment would excuse or explain his behavior. (Before you start to panic, American funnel-web spiders are nowhere near as toxic as the Aussie versions.) Funnel web venom messes up sodium ion channels, and causes a massive release of neurotransmitters.

Note that in the article I linked to above, psychosis isn’t a symptom of bite toxicity mentioned; frankly, in a bad envenomation case, the patient won’t be capable of much scampering about.
In literature reviewing cases and reactions to antivenom, only 3 allergic reactions were mentioned in over 75 cases, and those were quickly treatable.

The dude is lying to save his sorry ass. Fortunately, the court didn’t buy it either. However, as my last WTF, one thing I haven’t seen anyone comment on so far is the statements of the judge in this case:

“Crimes such as these are particularly frightening because realistically, there is nothing that a woman can do to avoid it, short of never being in public alone, a clearly unrealistic alternative,” the judge said.

Um. Excuse me?
Many assaults happen in the home, or by acquaintances. So staying indoors or with others isn’t a fix. Additionally, how about women defending themselves? Or, supporting programs that teach men to channel their rage towards women in appropriate ways? Or, giving offenders that do this a sentence long enough to take them out of circulation? (The guy got 6 years, which seems pretty inadequate to me. )

That statement shows a real lack of understanding of the complexity of the issue. Sigh.

Posted by Gwen Pearson

Writer. Nerd. Insect Evangelist. Have you heard the good news? BUGS!


  1. I thought I’d heard it all. I guess in this day and age I should never think that.

  2. A few minutes after reading this post I came across a Cinncinnati news storyabout a guy claiming he can’t be guilty of raping a college student because she was sleepwalking at the time and thus the sex was consensual. Clearly these two cases are particularly egregious but I presume prisons have many similarly “innocent” parties.

  3. With a bit of luck there will be a funnel web in his cell.

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