In March 2016, we blogged (see here) about the mass poisoning of raptors in 2012/2013 at an unnamed location in the Brecon Beacons National Park, Powys, Wales.
Our suspicions had been aroused when looking at raptor poisoning data published in two RSPB reports (Birdcrime 2012; Birdcrime 2013). We were very interested in a cluster of incidents (24, to be precise) during this period, all listed as ‘Powys’ and all involving the poison Bendiocarb. Those 24 incidents included nine poisoned baits and 15 poisoning victims, as follows:
9 x poisoned pheasant baits
2 x poisoned ravens
5 x poisoned red kites
8 x poisoned buzzards
An FoI was submitted to Dyfed-Powys Police to determine whether all these poisoning crimes had occurred at the same location (answer: yes) and whether any prosecution had been forthcoming (answer: no).
We were curious about why there had been no media coverage of this case, it being “the most significant wildlife poisoning incident in Wales and the second highest recovery of poisoned raptors in the UK in the last 40 years”, according to the RSPB (see here). We’d suggested that there had been a police ‘cover-up’, an accusation that Dyfed-Powys Police denied (see here). We still think there was some level of cover-up, not so much with the police investigation per se, but rather with the lack of any subsequent publicity about this case.
Naturally, we were interested in finding out the actual location of this mass raptor poisoning and we firmly believe it’s in the public interest that the location is named, but we didn’t have much to go on, other than it happened on a pheasant-shooting estate within the Brecon Beacons National Park. A number of blog readers from Powys did contact us privately and each named the same estate, but if we were to publish the estate name we needed much more conclusive evidence than that.
It’s taken us a while to get there, and we’re not going to reveal exactly how we got there because we know, from past experience, that as soon as we reveal information sources the authorities do their utmost to make access more difficult (e.g. by deliberately withholding data from official reports, see here) but after a series of FoIs and scrutiny of several indirect Government databases, we’re now in a position to name the location of the mass poisoning of raptors in 2012/2013 as the Glanusk Estate, Powys.
Glanusk Estate is privately owned and run by Dame Elizabeth Shan Josephine Legge-Bourke, her son Harry Legge-Bourke and his wife Iona Legge-Bourke (see here).
Shan Legge-Bourke was appointed lady-in-waiting to Princess Anne in 1987, was High Sheriff of Powys in 1991, has been the Lord Lieutenant of Powys (the Queen’s personal representative) since 1998 and became Dame Commander of the Royal Victorian Order in the 2015 New Year Honours.
Shan Legge-Bourke’s daughter, Tiggy Legge-Bourke, was nanny to Princes William & Harry and worked as a personal assistant to Prince Charles between 1993-1999.
Shan Legge-Bourke’s son, Harry Legge-Bourke, is a partner in the management of Glanusk Estate and served on the Board of Natural Resources Wales (the Welsh statutory conservation agency) between 2012-2015 (the same time the mass poisoning of raptors was taking place on Glanusk Estate).
The Queen visited Glanusk Estate in 2012 as part of her Diamond Jubilee celebrations (see here).
Could these strong royal connections explain why Dyfed-Powys Police were so reluctant to publicise the criminal activities taking place on Glanusk Estate? Who knows? Interesting though, isn’t it?
Now, we’re not suggesting for one minute that the Legge-Bourke family was in any way involved with the mass poisoning of raptors on Glanusk Estate, although it’s more than likely that the family would have become aware of what was going on when the police raided the estate in 2013 armed with search warrants and arrested two people (see police statement here).
As far as we can tell, Glanusk Estate offers walked-up grouse shooting (only 3-4 brace at a time – see here) but, like many large, privately-owned estates, the more commercial pheasant shooting is not run by the estate but is managed by an independent company, in this case, Mark Coleman Sporting & Game.
Mark Coleman Sporting & Game
According to the Mark Coleman Sporting & Game website (here), which, incidentally, features the logos of GWCT, Countryside Alliance and the National Gamekeepers Organisation, Mark Coleman operates two pheasant shoots: one at Glanusk Estate and the other at Stoke Edith Estate in nearby Herefordshire.
Stoke Edith is a close neighbour of the Sufton Estate. Some of you may recognise that name. In 2010, an under-gamekeeper from the Sufton Estate was convicted of 17 wildlife crime offences, including the use of Bendiocarb to poison raptors (see here). In the same year, the Sufton Estate Head gamekeeper was convicted of running a cannabis factory on the estate and was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment (see here).
Amazingly, according to this article published in Fieldsports magazine: glanusk_fieldsport_article-1, the Head gamekeeper now at Glanusk Estate, employed by Mark Coleman, is someone with the same name as that convicted Head gamekeeper from Sufton Estate. Imagine that! It surely can’t be the same person, because, as we’re so often told, criminal gamekeepers are not tolerated by the shooting industry, right?
But Mark Coleman employs another gamekeeper who also has a familiar name. According to this Fieldsports magazine article: stoke_edith_fieldsport_article-1, a gamekeeper employed by Mark Coleman on the Stoke Edith Estate shares the same name as a gamekeeper convicted of killing raptors and badgers on a shooting estate in Herefordshire in 2008. Imagine that! It surely can’t be the same person, because, as we’re so often told, criminal gamekeepers are not tolerated by the shooting industry, right?
We are, of course, in no way suggesting that Mark Coleman or any of his employees had any involvement or knowledge of the mass poisoning of raptors at Glanusk Estate, although, just like the Legge-Bourke family, it’s probably fair to assume that Mr Coleman was made aware of these crimes when the police raided Glanusk Estate in 2013 and found the 15 poisoning victims very close to some pheasant pens.
We’d love to know whether the Glanusk Estate and/or Mark Coleman Sporting & Game and/or Dyfed-Powys Police made any effort to warn the 20k guests who visit the annual Green Man Festival at Glanusk Estate about the discovery of poisoned baits and birds found strewn around the grounds.
According to the statement issued by Dyfed-Powys Police (here), the Crown Prosecution Service decided against charging anybody for the mass poisoning of raptors at Glanusk Estate in 2012/2013 because there was insufficient evidence to identify an individual culprit. Whoever did it has got away with it, like so many of these raptor killers do.
But this wasn’t just any old raptor poisoning. This was a mass raptor poisoning, the most significant ever uncovered in Wales, and the second biggest discovery of poisoned raptors in the UK in the last 40 years. And it happened on a prominent estate, within the Brecon Beacons National Park, over the period of a year. How can someone get away with that? And how can the authorities get away with keeping quiet about it?
And what about a subsidy penalty for the estate? These poisoning crimes were obviously in breach of cross-compliance regulations, in the same way that the mass poisoning of raptors at Stody Estate (Norfolk) was also a breach, which resulted in a huge financial penalty for the estate, imposed by the Rural Payments Agency (see here).
We’ve done some digging about a potential subsidy withdrawal at Glanusk and we’ll be blogging about that shortly.
Photo of one of the poisoned red kites found on Glanusk Estate, by Guy Shorrock (RSPB)
UPDATE 2 July 2016: Statement from Glanusk Estate here
UPDATE 3 July 2016: Further statement from Glanusk Estate here
UPDATE 4 July 2016: No subsidy withdrawal for mass poisoning of raptors on Glanusk Estate here