"The physical risk I‘ve taken on to keep surfing was a choice I made because I was not financially in the position to stop my career.”
The surf Olympian Owen Wright has told a courtroom the theft of almost one million bucks of his personal stash by a family friend employed as the fam’s bookkeeper led to his estrangement from Ma and Pa Wright as well as friction with his siblings and his pop star wife.
In a victim impact statement read to court prior to the sentencing of horse racing aficionado and poker machine enthusiast Shane Maree Hatton, who copped five years at the top with a three-year non-parole period, Owen said he accused family members of stealing and even told his wife, accomplished songstress Kita Alexander, to lay off the spending.
Owen said he was “emotionally worn down”, couldn’t sleep, was perpetually pissed off and anxious. Accusing his parents of ripping him off had lasting ramifications.
“My relationships…are still damaged because of the anger issues I had around this,” he said.
And, because of the theft, he couldn’t get out of the pro surfing game despite his catastrophic 2015 brain injury.
“I wanted to retire but I couldn‘t financially (due to the impact of the offending) and fought back into my career risking my life in the process… I was still being stolen from while I could barely walk and while the doctors were saying I would never work again in my career. The physical risk I‘ve taken on to keep surfing was a choice I made because I was not financially in the position to stop my career.”
Owen told the court he’d been saving for a family home and trying to set up a retirement fund, two enterprises stymied by the theft, although regular BeachGrit readers will remember the $5.1 million beach shack O bought in Byron Bay three years ago, which he later developed into four luxury villas, selling one for $6.5 mill, another of which he kept, the $1.6 million house at Lennox Head with its indoor swimming pool that meandered through the living room, the Federation-style house in Byron Bay (sold for a little under a million), the beachfront townhouse at Thirroul (675,000) and the gorgeous mountain-top hideaway (bought for 750k, sold for a million).
Everyone’s version of a happy retirement is different, I think.
Owen’s ma, Fiona, said she felt “somehow responsible” for the theft ‘cause she recommended Hatton to run the books.
“Her stealing from us was a heartbreaking despicable act,” she said.