Mass raptor poisoning in Wales: police cover-up?

DyfedPowys Police logoEvidence is emerging of what looks to be a pretty comprehensive police cover-up of the mass poisoning of birds of prey in the Powys region of Wales.

According to the RSPB’s annual Birdcrime report (2012), the following incidents are listed:

Oct 2012: 1 x pheasant bait (Bendiocarb), location: Powys.

Oct 2012: 1 x pheasant bait (Bendiocarb), location: Powys.

Oct 2012: 2 x pheasant bait (Bendiocarb), location: Powys.

Oct 2012: 1 x poisoned red kite (Bendiocarb), location: Powys.

This little cluster is of interest, but becomes of even greater interest when you look at the RSPB’s annual Birdcrime report (2013), where the following incidents are listed:

Aug 2013: 1 x pheasant bait (Bendiocarb), location: Powys.

Aug 2013: 1 x pheasant bait (Bendiocarb), location: Powys.

Aug 2013: 1 x pheasant bait (Bendiocarb), location: Powys.

Aug 2013: 1 x pheasant bait (Bendiocarb), location: Powys.

Aug 2013: 1 x poisoned red kite (Bendiocarb), location: Powys.

Oct 2013: 7 x poisoned buzzards (Bendiocarb), location: Powys.

Oct 2013: 3 x poisoned red kites (Bendiocarb), location: Powys.

Oct 2013: 1 x poisoned red kite (Bendiocarb), location: Powys.

Oct 2013: 1 x poisoned raven (Bendiocarb), location: Powys.

Oct 2013: 1 x poisoned pheasant bait (Bendiocarb), location: Powys.

Oct 2013: 1 x poisoned red kite (Bendiocarb), location: Powys.

In total then, over a period of 12 months, seven poisoned red kites, seven poisoned buzzards, one poisoned raven, and nine poisoned pheasant baits were found in Powys.

Dyfed Powys Police force area mapNow, Powys is a pretty big county and unfortunately the RSPB Birdcrime reports do not specify a more precise location so you can’t tell from these reports whether these poisoning incidents are related, although the use of Bendiocarb each time is striking. We don’t recall reading anything about these crimes in the media.

To find out a bit more, an FoI was submitted to Dyfed-Powys Police. The FoI asked three questions:

  1. Were all these poisoned baits and poisoned birds all found in the same area? Or
  2. Are they from multiple locations in different parts of Powys?
  3. What is the status of any police investigation(s) into these crimes?

Here is the Dyfed-Powys Police response to the FoI:

I can confirm that Dyfed-Powys Police does hold the information requested, the details of which are as follows:

  1. Yes they were.
  2. No they do not.
  3. They have been concluded.

One thing’s for sure – you can’t accuse the FoI officer at Dyfed-Powys Police of being verbose! No matter, the information provided is still useful.

What we’re now interested in is finding out where, exactly, these poisoning offences took place, why there hasn’t been a prosecution, and why there hasn’t been any media statement from the police?

Raptor persecution is one of the UK’s six wildlife crime priorities so you might expect that the mass poisoning of 14 raptors + one raven + the discovery of nine poisoned baits in one area might have warranted some kind of public statement, right? That seems a pretty reasonable expectation, and especially when you consider that the head of the Dyfed-Powys Police force is one Chief Constable Simon Prince. Who he? Why, he’s only the Chair of the Partnership for Action Against Wildlife Crime (PAW) UK Steering Group, and he also happens to be the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) lead on wildlife crime! This mass poisoning is right up there as one of the worst ever recorded in the UK – think Barns Estate, think Ross-shire Massacre, think Stody Estate – all involved the illegal mass poisoning of birds of prey and all received high profile media attention. What is it about this mass poisoning in Powys that the police decided it should be kept quiet?

We thought we’d look to the England and Wales PAW raptor subgroup (Raptor Persecution Priority Delivery Group) to see if they’d commented on it. After all, this is the group that DEFRA has identified as being integral to their highly controversial Hen Harrier Recovery Plan. Part of the RPPDG’s role is to provide publicity about raptor persecution, in order ‘to build trust and transparency’. Unsurprisingly, we couldn’t find any statement from the RPPDG about the mass poisoning of raptors in Powys. Why is it unsurprising? Well just look at the membership of the RPPDG – along with some very good organisations, it also includes DEFRA, Moorland Association, National Gamekeepers’ Organisation and the Countryside Alliance, none of whom are known for being keen to publicise illegal raptor persecution! Although membership of this group also includes the Police and the Welsh Government – both of whom should have commented on the mass raptor poisoning in Powys.

What we did find on our search was a protocol the RPPDG is using for publicity of annual raptor poisoning maps (see here). Strangely, the RPPDG has only once published a raptor poisoning map (covering the period 2007-2011). This map was published in 2013 – see here. The group hasn’t published any maps since then, although according to DEFRA’s Hen Harrier Recovery Plan, “the RPPDG have been publishing information on raptor poisoning since Feb 2013 and this is updated annually“. Really? Where is this published information?

So in summary, we know that the illegal mass poisoning of raptors took place somewhere in Powys between Oct 2012 and Oct 2013. We know it represents one of the worst raptor poisoning incidents discovered in the UK. We know that Dyfed-Powys Police have not issued a media statement about this atrocity. We know that the Raptor Persecution Priority Delivery Group has not issued a media statement. We don’t yet know where the mass poisoning took place but work is underway to find out. Watch this space.

UPDATE 11.50hrs: Please note, we have been asked to clarify that this blog post refers to the POWYS region of Wales and does not relate to the fine work of the North Wales Police Rural Crime Team.

UPDATE 13.07hrs: We’ve received a tweet from Chief Constable Simon Prince: “No cover up. I will look into reports & update on Twitter”.

That speedy and positive response sounds promising. We’ll update here in due course.

UPDATE 10 March 2016: Dyfed-Powys Police respond – see here.

UPDATE 1 July 2016: Mass poisoning of raptors in Wales: location revealed here

UPDATE 2 July 2016: Statement from Glanusk Estate here

30 thoughts on “Mass raptor poisoning in Wales: police cover-up?”

  1. I bet Police Scotland are on the line to the Welsh Cops PDQ, to find out how to cover things up more effectively of course. I thought there weren’t really any sporting estates in Wales, I thought it was all sheep and small cattle farming country. Are there any estates in that area? Or is it the farmers again, perhaps going after badgers with poison bait? Wasn’t this when the worst of the anti-badger propaganda was stirred up? Obviously they used the wrong bait for badgers, but I bet they worked it out now.

  2. Police cover ups regarding raptor persecution are becoming far to commonplace. The obvious cover up and silence regarding the Black Isle poisonings continues. Perhaps a check on police membership of shooting syndicates would be revealing. The local community can name the culprit but he is being well protected and we are expected to trust the police force.

    1. I know from my own time working in this field [early 80s to 2007] in Scotland and occasionally in England and Wales that if it wasnt for RSPB involvement in cases the information would never have come out…for a number of reasons. ..but there was never a good reason for not informing the public about dangerous poisons being placed in the open..and there still isnt…

    2. I may be out of order here but if the local community knows who the culprit is, why don’t they do something about it? Unless we take control away from these people it will never stop.

  3. God it makes you wonder if the officers in charge are buddies with the estate owners (they discussed it over champagne at the golf club, probably)?

    1. Not necessarily, Doug, although it doesn’t look good. Chief Constable Simon Prince has been in touch and says ‘no cover up’. He is investigating the reports and says he will provide an update. Let’s give him the chance to explain.

      1. Police officer who might benefit from covering up a cover up says no cover up and to take his word for it. Riiiiiiiiiiiiiiight, no.

  4. Why would you some the Police would have any need, any wish, any requirement to cover up something like this?
    If there is no direct evidence to provide a suspect, which in these cases is difficult to find as you don’t find photos of the suspect dropping poisons available, and odd poison IS found how exactly do you attribute that to a person over any other person?
    Just because no prosecution can be made because normal evidence like CCTV, witnesses and DNA are by the crimes very nature, almost impossible to find, why would anyone suggest the Police have covered anything up?
    Rather it’s a case of the investigation hasn’t produced a suspect and as there is no person as a victim, who exactly do they update?
    The bird is the victim and as it’s dead there isn’t really any point is there?.
    If you want an update then requesting one will likely lead to answers but as each crime with no person victim not requiring a person to be updated does not mean a police cover up, save your conspiracy theories as they are frankly rediculous and unwarranted.

    1. What a fascinating response, Andrew. So you don’t think the public should be informed when illegal/banned poisons have been discovered placed out in the open? A poison that is potentially fatal to humans? And you don’t think that the public should be informed, prosecution or not, when one of the biggest raptor poisoning incidents in the UK has been uncovered? Ask yourself, in whose interest is it to keep quiet about it?

      1. If I find a dead Pheasant I can bag it in an Iceland wrapper and smuggle it into the store to sell?

      2. It’s not about keeping quiet, these are incidents that clearly have no discernible source. How do you determine when, where and who placed the poison? Birds fly, the dead bird will not have died at the source of the poisoning and will likely have flown for hours, possibly days before succumbing. How then is the culprit identified?
        The issue is not that the poisoning is being covered up, it’s whether it is being investigated, which clearly they are.
        I do not doubt these crimes take place, nor do i condone these crimes, I abhore what has happened but to suggest almost without doubt that just because no one has been prosecuted that the Police have deliberately, willfully covered up any aspect of this is just rediculous.
        Just because some great statement about each individual case, or all cases as a whole, have not had some grand statement issued does not mean anything is being covered up, why would anyone suggest that would be the case?
        All I am trying to say is these cases are incredibly difficult to investigate by their very nature. There is no sattelite coverage 24hrs watching every square inch of Powys to determine in possibly thousands of square miles of wilderness where the poisoning originated. Without the assistance, of those who know, as someone who had previously posted, of those residents who will know who is responsible but who are hiding or withholding that information, these crimes will be incredibly difficult to pin down with any evidence to find those responsible will they not?
        Just because this grand statement has not been issued, does not mean anything has been covered up, or does it?
        Does it not just mean the very few officers involved, with the reprieve only recently of the meagre resources of the wildlife crime unit itself, have more than their fair share of work cut out desperately trying to combat this, to spend the time thinking this grand statement is required?
        Maybe they are too busy trying to investigate things and are spending their time doing just that, rather than thinking the wider public need this statement putting out there to satisfy some misplaced conspiracy theory?
        The time that report would require would take that officer away from the job of trying to look into these incidents as they don’t have assistants.
        The fact this has been put down to Police conspiracy is to miss the point, people out there are committing these crimes, there are too few officers to investigate them, the ability of those officers to find actual evidence does not mean they are hiding anything or involved in the cover up of what is happening!
        What we need is for the complacency of all that know and ignore what is happening to stop so those officers have the evidence they need to put a stop to it!
        The thing I find surprising is your response to my response!

        1. Suggest you try reading the blog again.

          Suggest you also look up Bendiocarb, especially its toxicity. If these 15 birds had been poisoned elsewhere and then ‘flew around for a few days’ (yeah, right), how come they all ended up dead in the same area? And how do you suppose the nine poisoned baits got there? Blown in by the wind?

          Wise up.

          And again, we’re not criticising the police about a lack of prosecution. We are all well aware of how difficult that can be with these cases. What we are criticising is their lack of public comment about the discovery of a mass poisoning incident.

    2. ‘Why would you some the Police would have any need, any wish, any requirement to cover up something like this?’
      That is an extremely naive question.
      Maybe because some of the police are buddies and/or shooting companions of the estate owner, and/or gamekeepers and/or Sheriff. There is evidence of this kind of relationship, it isn’t a conspiracy theory, as you imply. Read this blog for cases where Wildlife Crime officers have shown their colours after retirement by then taking managerial positions in grouse shooting organizations.
      The track record for revealing wildlife crimes especially in Scotland is so bad it leads to the obvious conclusion that in these cases the police are either corrupt or incompetent or both (check out the numerous examples on this blog).

  5. Hardly a conspiracy theory on the Black Isle when [Ed: rest of comment deleted. We can’t publish it because it’s still a live investigation and would amount to contempt of court].

  6. I cannot believe a press release was not issued by the Police, in regards to the potential threat to other wildlife, domestic animals and people.
    That would be no1 on the to do list, to prevent or at least reduce any further incidents.
    Without the facts, I would not comment on any investigation or lack of.

  7. Another insight in why the current system does not work.

    Having the police solely responsible for investigating raptor and wildlife crime is frought with danger

    Accountability and transparency are continued factors associated with the way police deal with wildlife crime

    It is in the interests of those that are committing wildlife to have the police in this position. Under resourced and sweeping crime figures under the carpet.

    It is not just the figures that are in question here , I suspect there would be very little done in way of investigation.

    It is time to improve things by allowing SSPCA to become involved in Scotland

  8. By leaving the investigation open the police prevents people who were involved in searches and those who were searched from commenting. It’s just a trick the police use to make us go away. Cover up? You bet it is. Some of us are at the point of naming names and daring the courts to charge us with contempt.

  9. At the time of the Black Isle killings it was suggested at the time that the local RSPB feeding station was to blame. Now Andrew, think about it. 16 raptors fed about 4 miles away, got together and decided to die together in one very small area. The banned poison would have killed anything including children just by handling, it is strong enough to kill through skin & didn’t need to have been eaten – which is why it was banned decades ago.
    I can add that the notion that the RSPB were to blame was actually aired on the BBC by one of the suspects.

  10. Mister RSPB I no you will blame game keepers and pigeon men but have you thought about the proper bird whatchers I my self live on an island seen a cocoh for about five years their is no skylarks no thushes no starlings very little sparrows the song bird population are allmost gone what for, even the terns are gone from our beaches if you cant see what is the cause you should not be a bird whatcher it is RAPTOR that is getting rid of the worlds song birds please try your self to do some thing about it befor their are no song birds left, it is with out a dout the raptors are the cause of all of it, you are the royal society for protection of birds not the persecution of birds

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