Further to yesterday’s blog where I revealed that the Scottish Gamekeepers Association (SGA) had told Police they had ‘evidence’ to believe Chris Packham had probably faked his own death threat (see here), today the story has hit a national newspaper but not in the way in which the SGA had hoped.
They’d probably hoped to embarrass Chris, undermine his credibility, cast him as a villain and turn public support against him. What they’ve done is the complete opposite and shown themselves as the blithering, nasty idiots they are.
Here’s what appeared in the Sunday Times today:
A complaint made by the Scottish Gamekeepers Association against the TV naturalist, who wants grouse shooting banned, has been refuted.
His support for a ban on grouse shooting has ruffled feathers. Now tension between Chris Packham and Scottish gamekeepers has boiled over after police were asked to investigate an extraordinary suggestion that he may have written himself a death threat to smear the shooting lobby.
The Scottish Gamekeepers Association (SGA) lodged a complaint with Hampshire Constabulary last month that questioned the authenticity of a letter sent in 2019 to the television naturalist, who lives in the New Forest. The complaint included reports from two graphologists commissioned by the rural body, which has 5,300 members, to compare the letter with examples of Packham’s handwriting found online.
Hampshire Police said on Friday evening that the complaint had been reviewed and no action would be taken. Packham, 59, one of Britain’s best-loved naturalists with more than 450,000 followers on Twitter, has come out with guns blazing.
“I’m pretty obviously not the sort of bloke who writes death threats to himself”, he said this weekend. “I’ve got plenty of better things to do. Like campaigning about the relentless illegal persecution of birds of prey on Scottish grouse moors. And this action by the SGA is transparent – they are playing the man because they can’t win the game”.
Gamekeepers have accused campaigners such as Packham of escalating tensions between the pro-and anti-shooting lobbies. Many feel their profession is unfairly maligned. A recent Scottish government survey suggested that 64% of Scottish gamekeepers experienced threatening behaviour or abuse from the public at least once every year.
Packham, however, said the killing of golden eagles and hen harriers on grouse moors was a “national embarrassment for Scotland”.
He added: “Due to their criminal fraternity, [the SGA] are losing – licensing of shooting estates is coming, mountain hare culling has been banned and muirburn is constantly under the spotlight, due to its negative impacts on our climate. Frankly, they’re desperate to the point of embarrassing themselves”.
Packham went public about the death threat in April 2019. He reported it to the police and later released it on social media. Written in block capitals with a ruler to disguise the handwriting, it stated that Packham’s address was known and warned him to be “very, very careful…we want you dead”, with references to a car crash and poison.
It is understood that one graphologist commissioned by the SGA believed there were strong similarities between Packham’s handwriting and the writing in the letter. Another, from London, found “moderate” similarities. When this newspaper became aware of doubts being raised over the letter’s authenticity, analysis was sought from a forensic document examiner who concluded that Packham was not the author.
Packham said the letter was forensically examined by police. His fingerprints were not on the letter, he said, and no matches for several other prints were found against a national database.
Last week, the SGA insisted that the reports it commissioned “were worthy of police investigation” and would be “retained for our members”.
“We believe we undertook our duty to our members who felt that handwriting similarities they they alleged to have seen, ought to be investigated further. We did so, by taking external expert advice. In similar circumstances, we would take exactly the same course of action again”.
He added: “We understand that Chris Packham is a television celebrity…contracted by the BBC to provide content on wildlife programmes. We understand and respect that he would want to provide his view”.
In April 2019, Packham found two dead crows hanging outside his thatched cottage, an act he described as “ghastly”, after a decision by Natural England to revoke a general licence for birds to be shot after a campaign by Packham’s pressure group, Wild Justice. It upset farmers who were prevented from killing pest birds such as crows that can kill lambs.
To be honest, I’m surprised that it was the Sunday Times who took this piece on. It’s more tabloid fodder than broadsheet. However, the Times has produced a fair article that includes context (i.e. Chris’s campaigning work to ban driven grouse shooting) and includes the full quote from Chris, not an edited version cut to support a particular narrative.
I did laugh, though, at the inclusion of the line that ‘64% of Scottish gamekeepers experienced threatening behaviour or abuse from the public at least once every year’, as if this justifies the SGA’s appalling behaviour. In any case, that is a mis-reported interpretation of the Scottish Government’s report, which actually showed that between 10-13% of Scottish gamekeepers had reported abuse from the public at least once every year (see here). And not to diminish that stat in any way, the Times should have provided balance by reporting the abuse that some of us, including Chris, receive on a daily basis, not just once a year but every single day, week in week out, from members, supporters, a former Director and even current Committee members of the SGA (see here).
All in all though, this latest malicious attack on Chris Packham by the SGA has backfired spectacularly, with Twitter in meltdown last night with support for Chris, including from a number of MSPs. If I was an SGA member I’d be pretty upset with the idiocy of the so-called leaders, for once again bringing the organisation in to disrepute.