Mass raptor poisoning in Wales: police respond but questions remain

Following on from yesterday’s blog (see here) about the illegal mass poisoning of raptors in the Powys region of Wales and our question about whether Dyfed-Powys Police had covered up this atrocity…..

Poisoned RK Powys

Chief Constable Simon Prince (head of Dyfed-Powys Police, Chair of the PAW UK Steering Group and ACPO lead on wildlife crime) sent us a tweet yesterday saying he would investigate our report and provide an update. He was as good as his word as this evening he sent us another tweet directing us to a statement that has just been added to the police website. In case it disappears, we’ve reproduced it here:

In response to blog by Raptor Persecution Scotland

Dyfed Powys Police take allegations of wildlife crime very seriously and investigates all incidents reported to us. Following information received in 2012 and 2013, relating to the deaths of raptors in Powys, a full investigation was carried out in partnership with the RSPB, the National Wildlife Crime Unit and the Wildlife Management Team in the Welsh Government.   During the investigation a number of search warrants under the Wildlife and Countryside Act were executed and two people were arrested in connection with the incidents. A file of evidence was subsequently submitted to the Crown Prosecution Service who advised that there was insufficient evidence to proceed with a prosecution.


We’re grateful to Chief Constable Prince for replying so promptly but this police statement leaves a lot to be desired and a lot of questions still unanswered.

The statement tells us that an investigation was undertaken, and this is further verified by a detailed blog written by one of the RSPB investigations team that has just appeared on the RSPB website (here). Good, we shouldn’t expect anything less. But, as is common in so many of these raptor persecution cases, the evidence was insufficient to proceed to a prosecution. That doesn’t mean that the mass poisoning didn’t occur – it clearly did – but it was not possible to identify a named suspect to face charges. We’re not going to criticise the police for that, especially after reading how pleased the RSPB investigator was with the police’s efforts during the investigation.

However, the focus of yesterday’s blog was whether Dyfed-Powys Police had embarked on a ‘cover-up’ of this mass raptor poisoning and that question still remains open. This crime has been described by the RSPB investigator as “the most significant wildlife poisoning case ever recorded from Wales, and the second highest recovery of poisoned birds of prey in any UK investigation during the last 40 years“. So why has Dyfed-Powys Police not made any public statement about it until we started asking questions yesterday? Surely it’s in the public interest to know about this?

In the recent past it has been standard practice for this police force, and other Welsh police forces, to make public statements about other (much smaller and thus less significant) poisoning/persecution incidents – e.g. see here, here, here, here and here. These statements can include an appeal for information and/or a warning to members of the public to be aware of dangerous toxic poisons in the local vicinity.

So just what is it about this mass poisoning crime that Dyfed-Powys Police has kept quiet about it for so long, even after the investigation had concluded?

You’ll note in the above police statement that the location has not been revealed. You’ll also note in the RSPB investigations blog that the location is given as a sporting (pheasant shooting) estate in the Brecon Beacons National Park, although the estate is still not named.

We think we’ve got a pretty good idea why this mass poisoning crime has not previously been made public (we’d call that covering it up). Since we published yesterday’s blog, several people have contacted us privately and each has named the same estate as being at the centre of the investigation. We’re not yet in a position to publish that estate name because we need to verify a few things first. But OH MY GOD. If it does turn out to be this estate, you’ll not struggle to put two and two together.

Photo of one of the poisoned red kites found on a pheasant shooting estate in the Brecon Beacons National Park, by Guy Shorrock (RSPB).

24 thoughts on “Mass raptor poisoning in Wales: police respond but questions remain”

  1. [Ed: Thanks Secret Squirrel – you’ll understand it’s probably unwise to publish your comment at this stage]

  2. Reading the RSPB report is slightly reassuring, but even after the case was no pro’d, why not release this info?

  3. Guy Shorrock’s tally of victims varies significantly from that you published from RSPB reports?
    He also sounds very keen to pour praise on all involved and gloss over the case with no lingering concern or regret. Doesn’t ring quite true to my ear?

    1. Well spotted, Mike! We had noticed that the figures we cited from the RSPB reports were slightly different from Guy Shorrock’s figures. So either the figures in the RSPB reports are not quite accurate, or Guy Shorrock’s figures are not quite accurate – although the tally is the same (15 poisoned birds), the individual number of buzzards, kites and ravens is slightly different. Not that it makes any difference to the significance of the crime, it’s still 15 illegally poisoned birds.

  4. I notice the slightly self-congratulatory last sentence in the RSPB blog – “hopefully this enquiry will have been a shot across the bows of anyone involved and will have deterred the widespread use of poison baits in this area”
    Well if they really wanted to deter this illegal activity, naming and shaming the estate would be an effective response! I really don’t get this pussyfooting around – the location is surely a matter of fact and the public undoubtedly has a right to know. Or am I just being naive!

  5. If enough people ask you to name and shame, can you just do it as per acting in the public interest?

    1. Without evidence as to where the poisons and birds were found, RPS would be open to be sued if they named an estate and it wasn’t the one where the baits were laid.

  6. I still find it incredible that, despite such a weight of evidence being found on an estate, in clear contact with the shooting operation that is going on, that it still has to be pinned on an individual to go to court. Surely it must come down to the person in charge of the management of the shoot? If, for example, something illegal was found to be happening on some other commercial premises – say, I don’t know, illegal drugs being sold from a shop or something – wouldn’t the shop owner be held accountable, whichever individual on the premises had been breaking the law, whether they’d been identified or not? Most other commercial enterprises are held responsible for the actions of their staff when one of them breaks the law – why are estates exempt from this?

    And the location should most definitely be named. Again, this happens with any other crime, whether there’s been a prosecution or not. ‘Yes, a murder was committed, but we can’t say where as there wasn’t enough evidence to prosecute anyone. The case is now closed, so why are you asking questions about it?’…

    1. If drugs were found in your garden it wouldn’t prove that they belonged to you.

      That’s the premise that this investigation has to overcome.

      Its the failure to make public that undermines confidence in the police.

  7. Hi, I have recently returned to living in mid Wales after a gap of some 20 years, although I have maintained regular contact, as I was only down in Bristle. This is disturbing; frankly standards are going back wards, this sort of nonsense was very rare in Wales in the 80’s, and the introduction of pheasant shooting to Wales had better look to its laurels, this behaviour is lamentable. I have also noted that there seems to be misunderstandings with regard to Red Kites, which again I never ever encountered in the 80’s and I was RSPB red Kite warden talking to a lot of farmers, farmers on whose ground this specie nested then knew it as a benign “worm eater”. Nowadays I am not sure that people are so educated, I have even had a conversation with a “Ranger” ie publicly paid to protect the environment, who seemed to be taking the view when I mentioned predator control, ie corvids that the abundance of Red Kites were a problem. OMG ! I am not publishing that location but believe me it is noted and in the little black book for reference..

  8. Just to clarify the figures – those in my blog are the most up to date and correct.

    2012 – four baits were found laced with bendiocarb. The red kite listed in Birdcrime 2012 for Powys as a victim of bendiocarb was actually an unrelated incident elsewhere in the county – the Dyfed Powys Police FOI response appears to have mistakenly linked this with the four baits. There undoubtedly was a poisoned red kite with one of the baits in 2012, but this was not submitted for toxicology tests so was not included as a ‘confirmed’ incident in Birdcrime 2012.

    2013 – There were actually two ravens, one was mistakenly missed from the Birdcrime 2013 report – my error, apologies for this.

    The final red kite listed on the RPS site related to a highly decomposed bird. At the time the Birdcrime 2013 data was prepared it had been provisionally identified from the field search as a red kite. In 2014, following the positive toxicology tests for bendiocarb, it was arranged to have the identity of some of the more decomposed birds confirmed by an experienced raptor worker in the more controlled conditions of a laboratory. This was to ensure the identification was to the standard required for court. During this examination it was confirmed that though there were both red kite and buzzard feathers present, the skull was that of a buzzard. Our database was later amended to record this as a single poisoned buzzard, hence the difference from the data in Birdcrime 2013.

    So still fifteen victims – comprising two ravens, five red kites and eight common buzzards (rather than one raven, seven kites and seven buzzards) plus a total of nine baits. Hopefully, this explains the minor differences between the figures in my blog and the information on the RPS site compiled from Birdcrime 2012/2013 reports and the police FOI response.

  9. From what has been written on this particular blog so far and from what has not been written anywhere in the press on the worst recorded instance of Raptor Poisonings to have occurred in Wales I’m thinking the words complete and utter cover seem fairly apt, why did the RSPB not go to the press with this at the time? Two arrests no convictions, here is what happens elsewhere in similar circumstances

    “ A farmer in Spain has been found guilty of laying out poisoned baits and poisoning at least 11 red kites, five dogs, six foxes, a cat, a raven, a buzzard and four vultures.
    His sentence? Two years in prison, two years disqualification from farming or any other profession relating to animal husbandry (post release), four years disqualification from hunting (post release), a fine of 90,270 Euros plus an additional fine of 28,500 Euros to be used specifically to monitor red kites in the local area for the next three year ”

    are we expected to turn a blind eye? this is why we need vicarious liability in all the UK but this also shows why we wont get it

    1. Would be good to have a report on such excellent spanish results…from original finder, through police operation to court result….thats where our problems lie, the justice system…not what NGOs say to a countryside establishment that doesnt give a damn.

  10. I truly hope that where this massacre happened is revielled & to whom the land belongs. If it doesn’t we really don’t live in a democracy.

  11. Not the first time for this has happened here. In 1990s I reported ravens shot in the nest, breeding goshawks that disappeared, Larsen traps baited with live pigeons and a dead tawny owl in a Larson trap. Full details and photos provided but I’m not aware of any prosecution arising from it. Nevertheless, I guess this information is still logged with the authorities – suggests that raptor persecution is long standing and continuing tradition for the ‘berks’ at this estate.

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