This is hilarious.
In the latest edition of the Hawk & Owl Trust’s members magazine (Peregrine, No 106, Spring/Summer 2017) there’s an article entitled ‘The Hen Harrier – A Controversial Bird‘.
There’s a bit about their 2016 satellite-tagged hen harrier, Rowan:
“Three months after being tagged, Rowan’s satellite data indicated that something was awry. Stephen Murphy, Natural England’s authorised investigator, headed out to ascertain what was wrong. Rowan was dead and in circumstances that justified an autopsy. The findings were passed on to the police. The Hawk & Owl Trust has refrained from any further comment for fear of prejudicing the ongoing investigation”.
As you’ll recall, Rowan was satellite-tagged by the Hawk & Owl Trust / Natural England at Langholm in 2016. His corpse was discovered, in suspicious circumstances, in Cumbria /Yorkshire Dales National Park in October 2016, shortly before the Westminster debate on banning driven grouse shooting.
A press release issued by Cumbria Police (after consultation with Natural England and possibly the Hawk & Owl Trust) stated he was ‘likely to have been shot‘. We questioned that phrasing and a series of FoIs revealed that Cumbria Police had changed their statement from ‘was shot‘ to ‘was likely to have been shot‘. Why did they introduce an element of doubt? Was this a political move?
We asked Cumbria Police and Natural England to publish the post mortem report and the x-ray of Rowan’s corpse – they refused, saying it ‘might affect the course of justice‘. This made us even more suspicious as police forces routinely publish x-rays of shot birds as part of their appeals for information. By not publishing Rowan’s x-ray, it was almost as though they had something to hide.
Then on 3 February 2017, the RSPB published an image of Rowan’s x-ray on their blog. The image was clear: Rowan had suffered gun shot injuries to the leg and metal shot fragments were visible at the fracture site.
Later that day, the Hawk & Owl Trust issued a statement saying ‘the initial post mortem results were not wholly conclusive and further metallurgical tests were required‘.
We asked the Hawk & Owl Trust, several times, who had decided the post mortem results were inconclusive, who had decided that further metallurgical tests were required, had those tests been done, and if so, what were the findings?
The Hawk & Owl Trust did not respond.
So we submitted an FoI to Natural England, who confirmed that further metallurgical tests were not being undertaken.
Meanwhile, in the March edition of the RSPB’s Legal Eagle newsletter, it was stated that ‘the Zoological Society of London post mortem examination, including a radiograph of its fractured left leg, showed the bird’s injuries were entirely consistent with it having been shot‘.
You got that, Hawk & Owl Trust? Rowan was shot and this has been well publicised. This information will in no way ‘prejudice the ongoing investigation‘ because the investigation into this shot raptor, just like pretty much every other investigation in to a shot raptor, is going nowhere, thanks to a wall of silence from the grouse-shooting industry and organisations like the Hawk & Owl Trust propping up that industry with unwarranted encouragement.