The rather exclusive world of equestrian sports has always been populated by the wealthy. On Netflix’s ‘Bad Sport: Horse Hitman,’ a drifter who worked most of his life around horses revealed a disturbing story of owners who wanted their horses killed for financial gain. Tommy Burns, also known as “the Sandman,” was known in the equestrian world as the man who put horses down. His arrest led to a bombshell of information, ending with influential people being convicted. So, if you’re curious about what happened to him, we’ve got you covered.
Who is Tommy Burns?
Tommy was born in Manchester, Connecticut. His parents divorced when he was young, and Tommy remembered leaving home when he was about fifteen. He then took up a job as a horse groomer, marking his entry into that world. Fast forward to February 1991, Tommy and his associate, Harlow Arlie, were caught breaking the leg of a show horse and then having a veterinarian put him down. The arrest led Tommy to cooperate with the authorities.
At the time, the authorities were investigating the sudden disappearance in 1977 of an heiress from Chicago, Illinois, that eventually branched out to fraud within the equestrian industry. Based on a tip regarding Tommy and Harlow’s activity in Alachua County, Florida, the police moved in on them. Tommy was caught red-handed and faced prison time. Moreover, the wealthy people he considered his friends didn’t take his calls or help him out, leading him to talk.
In 1982, Tommy worked for a Florida attorney named James Druck. His profession involved representing insurance companies, and at the time, he owned a show horse. When James needed money, he tried selling the horse but didn’t get an offer he believed was fair. Then, James decided to have the horse killed and claim the insurance money. It was James who taught Tommy how to kill horses by electrocuting them. The death wouldn’t appear suspicious to veterinarians since it would seem like the horse died of colic. This method of electrocution is what Tommy continued to follow until his arrest.
Over the years, Tommy claimed that he killed around 13-15 horses and was paid anywhere between $5000 and $40,000. The owners would then collect the insurance money. The reasons for having the show horses killed could be because of their performance, age, or health. Tommy once remembered a woman approaching him, “She said, ‘Do you think you could kill my horse for $10,000?’ So I did. She bought another horse with the insurance money and came up to me two months later and asked me to kill her new horse. She didn’t like it.”
Where is Tommy Burns Now?
Tommy testified in court, implicating many others for hiring him to kill their horses. His cooperation proved instrumental in indicting more than 30 people on various charges. In the end, Tommy was sentenced to one year and one day in prison in relation to the horse’s death in February 1991. But he stated that he wasn’t alone, adding, “I feel terrible about what I did. But I did not advertise. I did not do any sales calls. People found me and came to me. Very important people. Very wealthy people.”
Tommy added, “They came to me because they somehow knew that I might be willing to do something they wanted done. They wanted these horses dead.” He served about six months before being released from prison. He seems to still live in Florida, and it was reported that he owns an auto parts store and a horse farm over there.
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