Judge sends German citizen to prison in ‘extraordinarily tragic’ Manitoba hunting death Visiting missionary sentenced to two years mistook Rosengart man moving in dusk-lit bush for bear and fired fatal shot

German citizen Carsten Aust visited Canada to raise awareness and funds for a Philippine children’s charity, but his noble mission took a tragic turn after an ill-fated decision to join his new friends hunting for a bear ended in the death of a 59-year-old Rosengart man.

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German citizen Carsten Aust visited Canada to raise awareness and funds for a Philippine children’s charity, but his noble mission took a tragic turn after an ill-fated decision to join his new friends hunting for a bear ended in the death of a 59-year-old Rosengart man.

“In his wildest dreams, he never imagined he would be in a courtroom facing any charge of any kind,” his lawyer Jeff Gindin told court Wednesday. “It’s a terrible tragedy.”

A Facebook page for Vision Help International Care Foundation (Philippines) identifies Carsten and Mercy Aust as the charity’s founders.

Oleg Unruh died Oct. 5 after he was shot returning to his vehicle following a day hunting for deer in a wooded area near Elma, about 90 kilometres east of Winnipeg.

Aust, 46, pleaded guilty to careless use of a firearm and using a firearm in the commission of an indictable offence and was sentenced to two years in prison.

“I cannot imagine how painful this is, losing a father, losing a husband.” – Carsten Aust

He was granted bail last fall but willingly returned to Winnipeg from Germany, which does not have an extradition treaty with Canada.

“He felt it was the right thing to do,” Gindin said. “I think it says a lot about him that he was willing to come back.”

Aust wept as he turned to the court galley and apologized to Unruh’s wife and young children.

“I cannot imagine how painful this is, losing a father, losing a husband,” he said. “There are no words to describe it. I am so sorry for your loss. I pray that God will give you the grace to get through this.”

Court heard Aust was speaking to a church group in Vernon, B.C., in late September when he met a man and learned they had a common acquaintance in Manitoba. The two men shared a ride to Manitoba, where they joined their mutual friend in Brandon before moving on to Winkler, where Aust made a church presentation.

FACEBOOK PHOTO Carsten Aust pleaded guilty to careless use of a firearm and using a firearm in the commission of an indictable offence and was sentenced to two years in prison.

While there, he accepted an invitation from his friends to join them for a bear hunt on private land near Elma. He had neither a firearm licence or a licence to hunt in Canada.

Aust “was, in effect, urged and encouraged to join them.… He took their word it was OK,” Gindin said. “Clearly more inquiries should have been made.”

After one unsuccessful day, Aust and his Manitoba friend returned for a second day of hunting when around dusk, Aust saw something moving in the bush, Crown attorney Adam Bergen told court.

“Mr. Aust… assumed that movement was the bear he was after and fired a single shot from a high-powered rifle,” Bergen said. “His target, however, was not a bear, but a human being. Oleg Unruh had been hunting deer and was walking back toward his vehicle when he was shot.”

Unruh was shot through the arm and torso and died as the result of massive blood loss and internal trauma, Bergen said.

“There were a number of red flags that should have gone up in Mr. Aust’s mind to make him question whether to take this shot.” – Crown attorney Adam Bergen

A distraught Aust applied a tourniquet to Unruh’s arm and performed CPR until paramedics and police arrived.

Aust’s companion told police they had the landowner’s permission to hunt there and were told somebody else might be hunting at the same time. The man said they met up with Unruh and agreed to hunt on different parts of the property.

Bergen described the man’s claims as suspicious and, if true, would mean Aust and the man agreed to hunt in the direction facing Unruh. It would also be strange, Bergen said, for two parties to agree to hunt on the same property at the same time when one shot would scare away the other party’s prey.

“There were a number of red flags that should have gone up in Mr. Aust’s mind to make him question whether to take this shot, even if he was looking through his scope to confirm what he saw was a bear,” Bergen said. “He should have considered, knowing it was the end of the day and there was another hunter in the field, that this might be the same person. He should not have assumed that anything that moves in the Canadian bush is wildlife.”

Provincial court Judge Victoria Cornick called Unruh’s death “extraordinarily tragic,” but rejected describing it as an accident.

Unruh, a school bus driver, was described as a self-sufficient man with a “gentle soul” who built his own home and hunted to provide food for his wife and children.

Provincial court Judge Victoria Cornick called Unruh’s death “extraordinarily tragic,” but rejected describing it as an accident.

“What happened here was a criminal offence,” Cornick said. “People aren’t sentenced for accidents. (Aust) was careless in his actions.”

Aust is expected to be deported to Germany after completing the custodial portion of his sentence.

dean.pritchard@freepress.mb.ca

Dean Pritchard

Dean Pritchard
Courts reporter

Someone once said a journalist is just a reporter in a good suit. Dean Pritchard doesn’t own a good suit. But he knows a good lawsuit.

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