Ross-shire Massacre: two months on

It’s been two months since the massacre of 22 birds of prey was first uncovered near Conon Bridge in Ross-shire.

We know that 12 of the victims were poisoned (nine red kites and three buzzards) but there has been a complete lack of information about the other seven red kites and three buzzards.


Although it is known that some sort of poison was involved,  there hasn’t been any information about the type(s) of poison used. The police and the Environment Minister have both said this information hasn’t been released for ‘operational reasons’. This lack of information has led to a great deal of speculation, even from inside the Parliamentary Chamber, where one MSP suggested the whole incident might have been ‘an awful accident’ – perhaps from, he suggested, unintentionally-contaminated meat at the Tollie Red Kite feeding station.

Whilst it is perhaps understandable that, in some circumstances and for a limited period, the specific type of poison is not revealed to the public, there is no reason whatsoever why the police can’t confirm whether the poison(s) used was a banned pesticide (as is common in most raptor poisoning incidents in Scotland), without having to actually name it specifically. By withholding this information, the police and the government are allowing this incident to be dismissed as a possible inadvertent/unintentional poisoning when actually it is anything but.

So, two months on and it’s all gone quiet. Six weeks ago the police were surprisingly willing to allow their official searches of various properties in the Conon Bridge area to be photographed and publicised in the media – we counted at least five different photographs depicting police officers or police vehicles at the scene of the crime – that level of media exposure of an investigation is relatively rare, but perhaps it was an attempt to demonstrate that the investigation was being taken seriously, in response to the huge outpouring of public anger and demands for action.

It’s probably obvious to most of us who follow these crimes that it is highly unlikely, two months on, that anyone will be prosecuted for this offence. Just like the majority of these crimes, the weeks will turn into months and then into years and we’ll hear nothing more about it. Just look at any of the high-profile incidents of the last few years – they all follow the same pattern – e.g. see here.

The Ross-shire Massacre was different in some respects, in that the corpses were discovered over a period of five weeks and each discovery led to a new press release, which led to a steady rise of public fury. That fury led to an unprecedented public demonstration in Inverness town centre, as well as an influx of public donations towards a reward fund for information leading to the successful prosecution of the poisoner(s).

That reward currently stands at £27,423. Of that total, £10,423 came from 217 members of the public. RSPB Scotland, who set up the donations website, told us that if the reward wasn’t claimed it would be put towards the work of their wildlife crime investigations team in Scotland. It seems to us that, two months on, the reward is unlikely to be claimed (because a prosecution is so unlikely) and so some of us that donated might want to ensure our money is put to good use now, instead of it languishing in an account for three years while the police claim they’re still working on a ‘live investigation’. Ten and a half grand is a lot of money and could be used to buy all sorts of equipment that might just lead to the prosecution of another raptor killer somewhere else in Scotland.

If this is your view (and it’s certainly ours) and you’d prefer your donation to be made immediately available to the RSPB’s Investigations Team, we’d recommend you contact the Director of RSPB Scotland, Stuart Housden, and tell him (don’t forget to mention how much you donated). His email address:

Previous blogs on the Ross-shire Massacre here.

14 thoughts on “Ross-shire Massacre: two months on”

  1. Firstly, I am a regular volunteer at the Tollie red kite centre and I can say that without any doubt the centre is not implicated in any way. We have been putting the same meat out for the birds for months now and its all prebagged in a sterile environment straight from the source and put into freezers. Also, the geographical spread of the found dead birds indicates a central ‘hotspot’ where the poisonings must have occurred. This is over two miles away from Tollie. We have had two regular pairs of kites at Tollie for two or three years and they, thankfully, have been unaffected by this poisoning incident.

    Secondly, as a local ‘kite enthusiast’ you may say I have set up a campaign on facebook and twitter (@rosskites) called ‘let’s get MAD for wildlife’ whereby us locals can do something to help. There is a petition in force to give the SSPCA further investigative powers (which forms part of Paul Wheelhouse MSP’s consultation) The RSPB are fully supportive of this and we plan to travel to Edinburgh to present it to him at the Scottish Parliament in August. We have also been systematically searching the area for more victims. In this way we found a buzzard which which wouldn’t have been found otherwise. We have now looked in most of the woods within a 2 mile radius of the ‘hotspot’ and found no more. Hopefully, 22 is indeed the final tally.

    Thirdly, as the campaign instigator, I have been passed by private message various information from worried locals which I forwarded to the police. In a conversation with the lead officer (I won’t mention his name) he told me that they won’t say which poison it is because of the large reward. He said that someone could come forward saying that they did it, only for a ‘friend’ to claim the reward which could be split once the potential conviction was spent (at the most a fine or a few months in jail) the name of the poison was one of the details which could prove innocence or guilt. So, in order to elliminate this possibility they are withholding this information.

    I hope this information is helpful and also please feel free to sign our petition. Thank you!

    1. Of course the Tollie kite feeding station isn’t implicated in any way. Only those with a vested interest in diverting attention from the on-going deliberate poisonings all over the country would suggest it was.

      The police could easily put a stop to such ridiculous claims by saying whether the poison(s) used was one (or two) of the banned pesticides that is/are routinely used by gamekeepers/land managers to illegally poison raptors. They don’t have to name it.

    2. ” He said that someone could come forward saying that they did it, only for a ‘friend’ to claim the reward which could be split once the potential conviction was spent (at the most a fine or a few months in jail) the name of the poison was one of the details which could prove innocence or guilt. So, in order to elliminate this possibility they are withholding this information.”
      I cannot follow that. How can anyone claim a reward without first coming forward with information that leads to arrest and conviction. Are we to believe that the police would not detect a false claim being made.
      I am all for the work and effort that the contributor is doing and accept that he has been told what he has posted and is acting completely in good faith, but I fear there is something awry in the reasoning.

      I have signed the petition.
      Good luck with your red kite work etc.

      1. IME most police would be hard put to detect their backside using both hands and a medical journal. They are overly inclined to take an easy conviction (or at least pass to the Procurator for one) when it presents itself rather than keep digging at what seems a difficult case to crack even for competent investigators. If I shop my mate using *just* enough evidence to sound even half convincing and if she says that it is “a fair cop guv, you’ve got me bang to rights so you have” then they will click their heels together in glee, pass it onto the Procurator who upon hearing someone actually intends to plead guilty will rush to the court house steps with indecent haste, the old beak will hand down some community service on a first offence (which my mate might be doing already thanks to Iain and Dave’s big wheeze of making unemployed people do community service) -no fine for someone who says they cannot afford to pay one anyway- and then after she’s done her fifty hours we split the cash. The police have scored 22 closed investigations (one for every bird, of course) to make their figures look great and the Procurator have also scored a successful prosecution for their figures. Everyone wins (except the Birds of Prey), including the real criminal who gets to go and kill something else. I’m actually surprised they are not quietly facilitating that.

        That is the basic scenario for cases where being seen to do something is higher priority than the police would give the actual crime itself. Still better than a certain English based force, whose method of closure would be to go shoot a black person.

  2. What a shocker the biggest charity in the country (RSPB) have exploited this situation and incident to generate them even more money. They can’t even be bothered waiting to get their grubby mitts on it. As I’ve said before this is outcome they intended all along that was the whole idea of setting up the donations website.

  3. Thank you for signing Dougie and for your kind words. I too cannot understand these reasons but thought I should pass on what he said to me. The annoying thing in this particular case is that there is very strong circumstantial evidence pointing to one individual, but the police didn’t act quickly enough initially to gather evidence and the warrant they obtained was to search farm properties only, not -crucially- private property! There is nothing else we can do now other than sit back and hope this sick individual gets caught, it’s so frustrating.
    We are also waiting patiently to learn the toxicology reports on the other 10 birds.
    (By the way, I am a she.)

  4. Perhaps a better suggestion for the use of the reward money, if it isn’t honestly claimed within a certain period of time that is, would be to use it to fund the Tollie Red Kite feeding station for as long as it takes rather than let the RSPB have it free gratis.

    Already signed the petition to give the SSPCA further investigative powers previously.

    1. What makes that a ‘better’ suggestion?

      Are you suggesting that the RSPB Investigations Team wouldn’t make good use of it?

      Donating the money to the Tollie kite feeding station isn’t an option. It was made quite clear to donors, on the RSPB’s donation website, that if the reward was unclaimed it would be used by the Investigations Team. If donors weren’t happy with that, they had the choice not to donate at all.

      1. The money should be donated to the SGA and NGO for all the great work there members do for conservation and wildlife in the UK.

      2. No, I’m suggesting that it should be put to good use by the RSPB Investigations Team in ensuring that a few criminal Raptor persecutioners get their just deserts as soon as possible after it becomes obvious that no one is going to come forward with sufficient evidence for a prosecution, if they can’t or won’t do that there are other alternatives.

        Incidentally, I donated to the reward fund myself so I know what it was about.

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