Ross-shire Massacre: unbelievable press release from Police Scotland

RK7Following the mass poisoning of raptors (16 red kites & 6 buzzards) at Conon Bridge, Ross-shire, seven months ago, Police Scotland has this evening put out the following press release:

Appeal for information in relation to death of raptors

Police Scotland has issued a further appeal for information relating to the deaths of raptors in various locations across the Ross-shire/Black Isle area earlier this year.

Following investigation Police Scotland can now confirm that the birds, 12 red kites and four buzzards, were most likely not targeted deliberately but instead were the victims of pest control measures. The raptor deaths occurred over March and April this year.

The criminal investigation into their deaths is still ongoing and Police Scotland continues to work closely with partners.

Detective Superintendent, Colin Carey, said:

“Investigations into the suspicious deaths of wildlife and especially raptors can be difficult and prolonged. The areas covered can be vast and it is seldom immediately apparent why a bird may have died.

“We work closely with partners to identify and thoroughly investigate all wildlife crime. The death of the raptors in Ross-shire remains an on-going investigation during which we are endeavouring to establish all of the circumstances around this crime. We would ask anyone who may have further information to come forward.”

A significant reward is being offered for witnesses or further information.

Partner agencies would seek to remind members of the public that if anyone finds any further dead birds or animals in the area they are asked to make a note of its location and inform the police on 101. Under no circumstances should anyone touch or attempt to recover any dead animal.

If anyone has any information regarding this matter please contact Dingwall Police Station, telephone 101.


This police statement is staggering. Pay close attention to the second paragraph: Police Scotland can now CONFIRM…..

How can they possibly CONFIRM this, without a full confession from the person who laid out the poison baits? Does this CONFIRMATION mean that they’ve got the poisoner? That he/she has been arrested? That he/she has been charged?

The truth of the matter is, they haven’t got the poisoner, so they cannot possibly CONFIRM whether the poisoner meant to target raptors or meant to target a legitimate ‘pest’. Besides, the only legitimate method of poisoning ‘pests’ is by the controlled use of rodenticides. We already know that the poison(s) involved in this case included a banned poison – the police said so months ago. According to the Vice President of the RSPB, the poison used was Carbofuran. We don’t know that for sure because Police Scotland has refused to say, and the Government toxicology lab who would normally publish this information has mysteriously chosen not to on this occasion. We also know that poisoned baits were picked up at the crime scene – as reported here and here. How can this possibly be classified as a ‘non-deliberate’ poisoning?! It’s illegal to even possess these banned poisons, let alone to use them!

What on earth are Police Scotland playing at? This press statement is a disgrace. If we applied their logic to every other raptor that has been poisoned by a banned poison over the last ten years, then they’ve all been accidental! An unfortunate mistake by someone carrying out pest control measures! What sort of message does this police statement send to those who continue to use banned poisons to kill wildlife? ‘Ah don’t worry lads, we know you didn’t mean to deliberately target that golden eagle/red kite/buzzard with your illegal poisoned bait’.


Somebody needs to be asking questions about this. It’s pointless us trying to ask Police Scotland – we’ll just get the stock response of “It’s a live investigation so we can’t comment”. So much for police accountability, eh? All this guff about how the SSPCA shouldn’t be given extra powers because they’re ‘unaccountable’ – Jesus.

So seeing as we have no confidence in Police Scotland to be (a) accountable, (b) competent or (c) trustworthy about this case, how about we ask the partner agencies “working closely” with the police on this case, whether they agree with Police Scotland’s CONFIRMATION that this incident was accidental?

Let’s ask Ian Thomson, Head of Investigations at RSPB: and let’s ask Mark Rafferty, Head of Special Investigations Unit at SSPCA: We’re not asking them to reveal any confidential information about the case, just whether they agree with Police Scotland’s assertions that these poisoned birds were not deliberately targeted, and if so, on what basis has the assertion been made?

33 thoughts on “Ross-shire Massacre: unbelievable press release from Police Scotland”

  1. I’ve e-mailed Mr Thomson at RSPB and will let you know if/when I get a reply, and whether or not the reply is personal or computer generated.

  2. “It’s illegal to even possess these banned poisons, let alone to use them!”. Sadly, in England this is not the case, an ex-DEFRA minister wrote that the substances used in cases like these are banned for use, therefore, he felt that they did not need to be made illegal to hold. An interesting comment from a person with both grouse and pheasant shooting estates.

  3. I’ve just realised that I’m having a nightmare and that I’ll wake up in the morning and find all is well with the world! Nothing like this could happen in real life!!!

  4. Total WHITEWASH, it’s obvious that whoever is responsible for this mass illegal poisoning is either very influential or has some very high powered friends in the right places !!!

  5. Detective Superintendent Colin Carey should be ashamed of himself for releasing such a ridiculous statement, he’s just making a mockery of the police force and their willingness to bring wildlife murdering criminals to justice. It’s time he and many of his colleagues went back to police school and brushed up on the wildlife protection laws, in fact he only needs to go on Google and look it up.

    So, because he thinks that 12 Schedule One protected Red Kites and 4 legally protected Buzzards were not deliberately targeted that’s OK then. The fact that a banned poisonous substance, (Carbofuran) was indiscriminately used for alleged “pest control” and killed many protected species is not illegal or serious enough to warrant an arrest, even though they and nearly everybody else knows who the probable culprit is. What if a child or somebody’s pet dog had picked up one of the poisoned corpses and died as a result, would that have instilled any further action, it makes you wonder just what would ???

    1. Where’s the evidence that carbofuran was the chemical involved? It’s just hearsay among the RSPB and birders right now until the SASA statistics are made available this is just speculation. The ‘poisoned baits’ mentioned in the Guardian newspaper may be dead rat/mouse carcasses found beside some of the bodies that had ingested rodenticide. Funny how the word ‘bait’ wasn’t mentioned in any other sources.

      As for the police saying it was a banned substance could it be the case that it simply wasn’t a good press release and the rodenticide involved is now banned for sale to the general public but can still be bought by registered pest controllers as several are?

      This is the only way I can see them saying catagorically that it wasn’t deliberate. Bare in mind it wouldn’t be the first time Red Kites in the Black Isle had died in this way.

      1. Grouseman, you make some good points, however, if this is accidental then it wreaks of incompetence by someone setting out poisoned bait. With so many birds surely foul play of some sort is going on here.

      2. First of all Grouseman, legal rodenticides are not normally fast acting poisons, many of the birds which were poisoned in this case were found on or very near the poison laced items, (we’ll not call it baits if you don’t like that term) this points to it being a very fast acting poison that was used.

        Secondly, according to the Vice President of the RSPB, the poison used was Carbofuran, why would someone in his position make such a statement without being sure of the facts, he would be certain to receive some serious flak if he was proved to be talking out of turn.

        Thirdly, you’re right about this isn’t the first time Red Kites have died in this way on the Black Isle, poisoning there is a regular occurrence and is holding back the spread of these magnificent birds into other suitable Highland areas. This was the first area in the Highlands where these birds were released and so far has shown the least spread into other suitable areas than any other release area in the UK.

        Constant persecution from various sources, in particular those with shooting interests are the main cause holding back these fine birds from being a regular sight in the air over the entire Highlands, any other claims for this are inexcusable rubbish !!!

  6. From the IPCC website
    You can also complain about how a police force is run. This is known as ‘direction and control’. So, for example, you can complain about policing standards, or policing policy.

  7. The responsible body for complaints is the PIRC. Having ;looked at the website there are many hoops to go through and requirements to prove that you you are able to complain. The first step appears to be a complaint to the officer concerned, or Police Scotland, presumably for claiming to know what has happened but not yet able to complete an investigation.

  8. Do the police publish, the amount of money set aside to investigate this crime, we feel it is important, a crime worth our resources, maybe we have not done enough, to get that message across to those in power.

  9. So if someone accidentally released poisonous chemicals into a salmon river, killing many precious salmon and setting back numbers in that river for many years, that would be any less of a disaster and illegal act (than had it been done deliberately)?! Unbelievable!! If it were salmon poisoning I don’t think we’d have seen anywhere near this amount of ‘apathy’ from the police – in gathering and using evidence to bring some charges and someone to book.

    This police statement is unbelievable on many levels, but sadly another prime example of what we have come to expect from the majority of the police ‘investigations’. Some chance society has (as things stand) on stamping out crimes against raptors and bringing guilty parties to justice, if the police are the only ones with full investigative powers..another piece of straw on the camels back? hopefully this is the piece of straw which will convince Mr. Wheelhouse that it is time the SSPCA investigations team should be given more powers.

  10. What the police are actually doing is trying to diminish this crime. They talk of 12 red kites and four buzzards, but weren’t there 16 red kites and six buzzards found?

    Who is set to gain from this ridiculous press statement?

  11. How the feck can you ‘confirm’ that something is ‘most likely’. That is a contradiction in terms, meaning nothing, like something out of Yes Minister expect it is not in the least funny.

    1. It does mean something. ie the person who wrote it seems incapable of assessing facts. Perhaps it was a Scottish police wildlife officer.
      Alternatively it could mean the writer was an ass.

  12. If it wasn’t so tragic it would be hilarious. We keep getting the line ‘it’s a live investigation so we can’t comment’ from both Wheelhouse and police and yet here the police are churning out prejudicial statements which if someone were caught would surely be used in a defence. A fecking disgrace. Excuse me if someone has made this point before me. I am too furious to read any further.

  13. I couldn’t believe the statement. The police have been pathetic throughout this incident. The Scottish Government must now give the SPCA the full powers to investigate wildlife crime. Police Scotland have shown they are completely incompetent. If the Scottish Government don’t do this it will yet again prove they are not serious about preventing the illegal killing of the nations birds of prey & other precious wildlife so cherished by all decent people.

  14. Has anyone managed to find out what the local papers/ media have reported about the statement ? If anything.
    I wonder how long it took D.S. Carey to eventually draft a statement ,which he ,and his Boss,found acceptable.(How many paper bins were filled with draft copies ?)
    Is he a native to the area because if he hadn’t came up with the ” goods” then his jacket may have been on a shaky nail,as they say.Anyway most folk in this area really couldn’t care what “outsiders” think or how they conduct themselves after all they have to stay there and if they start upsetting “people” well they may not be welcome in some local “haunts”
    What a sad state of affairs that only decent people seem to give a feak and those of you who say “well these things happen” well only an an idiot or idiots would have carried out such actions.If they were concerned about “vermin” did they consult their local council or pest control company ? Are the local police aware of the crime of “Reckless Conduct”
    Sorry for the rant,Ed,I would have written more,but thought I would try and give you a wee break.

  15. I think that they might be under pressure from Scottish Government to get some sort of conviction/resolution in this case and they might be trying a wee bit of plea bargaining…. we know they Know the poison, we know they know who probably did it…but there is a an evidence gap to make a prosecution that that could not be undermined….. so they are trying to offer the culprit a way to own up to a lesser charge????

    Absolutely crazy. Somebody should FOI for records of communications between Scottish government and police Scotland in relation to this case. While the content would be helpful, the mere fact that there will have been phone calls, meetings etc about the subject would be revealing.

    1. An FoI on this case would be pointless. We did one before on the police mishandling in to the investigation of the poisoned peregrine found near Leadhills earlier this year – we were just told the usual: “It’s a live investigation, we can’t comment”. Scot Gov told us they can’t interfere with a police investigation.

      What we did get though, was a series of Parliamentary Questions being asked about that investigation, to which Ministers had to respond.

      With this in mind, we’ve contacted four MSPs known to be interested in raptor persecution and have asked them to consider submitting PQs. We’ll see what happens.

      We’ve also asked Paul Wheelhouse what the hell is going on. We know that he knows what poison was used in this crime.

      Also interesting to note that two senior police officers will be giving evidence on wildlife crime to Scot Gov Committee later next week. Perhaps questions will also be asked then…..

      We’re also very keen to find out whether RSPB Scotland and SSPCA (as partners in this investigation) share Police Scotland’s view that these poisonings were accidental. We look forward to hearing their thoughts…

    2. Own up to a lesser charge!
      No comment, no comment, no comment will be the response as if there is insufficient evidence on the true charge there is no hope of prosecution.

  16. Sounds like something off Hertbeat, the 1960s police television series, with Lord Ashfordly.
    Bladdy bad job, cant believe it, sounds very “,sweep it under the carpet” to me, . Come on Constabulary get a result, get a grip. Next time, which im sure there will be, I hope for better action, but don’t hold out much hope.

  17. I await the next few weeks with interest rather than in hope that any of the ‘top brass’ will actually do something about what is one of the worst wildlife crime ‘cover-ups’ to date – and there are plenty to choose from.

    1. Strings are obviously being pulled from the very highest levels, how else can the police get away with failing to bring these Raptor persecuting criminals to justice so many times . If the police failed so many times for any other offences their combined arses wouldn’t touch the ground until they’d done something to rectify it, heads would definitely have to roll.

      Come on Police Scotland, prove you are up to the task and are not controlled like puppets, get your arses into gear and do something serious about this crime wave against our legally protected birds of prey.

  18. Just read this in the Press & Journal , just shocking that such a statement could be issued. They seem to forget that in this age of social media, this isn’t a little story that will be lost in the local Scottish newspaper, it will go worldwide. We must continue to put pressure on all involved to start taking action.

  19. At very best a very clumsy press release, god knows what they were were trying to achieve. I wonder if they have succumbed to pressure from those with sporting interests.
    Less informed members of the public may now be thinking this whole incident sounds like an accident and if this was the intention behind the release then police Scotland should hang there heads in shame

    The result is likely to further reduce confidence in police Scotland, further distance the conservation community and most importantly will not further any chances of catching the person responsible.

    Remember it is an offence to intentionally or recklessly kill a wild bird and any reasonable person can foresee that the laying of a baited poisonous substance (which is illegal to posses in any circumstance) would be highly likely to kill or serious injure any animal or bit coming into contact with it and that would include everything from a rat to human.

    Not targeting birds is not a defence

  20. Given that poisoned meat baits are illegal….it is incomprehensible that so many raptors could be poisoned in one go by the use of rodenticides as they are currently licenced for use. Police Scotland have some serious questions to answer on this

    1. Well done. We’re very curious to hear what those two organisations, as police partners in this investigation, have to say about that ludicrous police statement. We can’t imagine that they share Police Scotland’s views on this.

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