Police conduct another multi-agency raid after two buzzards confirmed poisoned in Teesdale

Press statement from Durham Constabulary (21 April 2021)

Operation targets raptor persecution

Officers have teamed up with partner agencies on a special operation to target raptor persecution.

Operation Sunbeam included members of the Barnard Castle Neighbourhood Policing Team, RSPB, Natural England and the National Wildlife Crime Unit who carried out searches at two properties in Teesdale this morning (April 21).

It follows an incident last year when two common buzzards were found dead in Teesdale woodland. Forensic tests indicate they were illegally poisoned with a banned pesticide.

[Two poisoned buzzards. Photo by RSPB]

After gathering all the information, the team searched the properties for any harmful substances and two men are now helping officers with their enquiries.

PC David Williamson, who led the operation, said: “We will always do everything we can to support our rural communities and work with partners to act on information received about alleged criminal activity.

The positive action taken this morning will continue and I would encourage anyone with information about this type of crime to get in touch.”  

[Genuine & credible partnership working. Photo from Durham Constabulary]

The action was part of the Health and Safety Executive’s Wildlife Incident Investigation Scheme which was makes enquiries into the death or illness of wildlife, pets and beneficial invertebrates that may have resulted from pesticide poisoning. 

Guy Shorrock, senior investigating officer for the RSPB, provided specialist advice on the subject.

He said: “The illegal killing of birds of prey is a serious national problem so we are delighted with the really well-prepared response from Durham Police, working with partner agencies.

We hope this sends a clear message that the illegal killing of birds of prey won’t be tolerated and action will be taken.”

Ian Guildford, investigative support officer for the National Wildlife Crime Unit added: “It was a very well organised response and great to see agencies coming together to tackle this type of issue.”

If you have any information call 101 or email PC Williamson at david.williamson@durham.police.uk


This is brilliant and follows in the footsteps of three other recent multi-agency raids in response to raptor persecution crimes.

On 15th March 2021 there was a raid in Lincolnshire (see here), on 18th March a raid in Dorset (here), on 26th March a raid in Devon (see here) and now this raid in Teesdale.

It’s alarming that all four raids were triggered by the use of banned poisons to kill birds of prey and it’s also quite telling that these offences took place in counties spread across England. This is not a small, localised issue as the shooting industry would have us believe – this is widespread criminality and involves the use of banned poisons that have the capacity to kill anything that touches it, including humans.

Well done to all the partners involved – this is genuine and credible partnership working. Let’s hope their efforts are rewarded with successful prosecutions and convictions.

15 thoughts on “Police conduct another multi-agency raid after two buzzards confirmed poisoned in Teesdale”

  1. Credit to the Police and other partners involved in these raids.
    They seem to be stepping up their game on wildlife crime, good to see, long may it continue, hope a few prosecutions follow

  2. Great to see action involving multiple partners into raptor/wildlife crime. Gives us hope that the noose is tightening on those involved in such criminality in the UK countryside.

  3. I find it amazing how some police forces are managing to complete successful wildlife crime investigations, working closely with partners who have the knowledge and ability to assist them and yet other police forces seem to take issue with the very same organisation. It’s almost as though some forces don’t want to successfully prosecute the wildlife criminals

  4. Good to see that four different Police Forces were up to speed in these cases, no doubt ably assisted by the NWCU and RSPB Investigations. Such a combination is becoming a force to be reckoned with – villains take note as the next collar to be felt could be yours!

  5. This is a genuine query.

    Durham Police do not have a Wildlife Crime Officer nor any money specifically for that role. Whenever I’ve reported alleged wildlife crimes to the RSPCA or Badger Trust they have referred my complaint to the police (because, I think, they can’t go on private land) but when I have gone direct to the police I have had a tough time even getting the complaint registered so I find it surprising that this alleged wildlife crime was taken so seriously in this area.

    I have reported poisoned rabbits to Trading Standards but they refuse to give me any further info on the case apart from confirming that the rabbits were laced with a blue poison. I would love to know who to report these matters to so that I can try to get any concerns I have dealt with more professionally.

    Who is the lead organisation that receives the complaints and involves the partner organisations? Thanks.

    1. Lizzy
      I would suggest you report suspected crimes to the local police force of the area in which the incident has occurred on the 101 system – ask for an incident number. (In an emergency use the 999 system)
      The police are now using more IT- so some constabularies have on line methods of reporting suspected crimes and concerns- have a look at the relevant police services website.
      (The police have a legal duty to properly investigate crimes – and a substandard investigation or failure to investigate could be a breach of their code of conduct.)
      If you aren’t getting a satisfactory response when you try to report a suspected crime, contact that police forces professional standards department and lodge a complaint.

      You could also report suspected crimes to the RSPCA- their website has details; or the RSPB Investigation team- contact details on the RSPB webpage.

      Personally, I would initially contact the police and obtain an incident number. Then depending on whether it was a crime involving birds or animals, I would contact the RSPB Investigations Team or RSPCA respectively and provide them with not only details of the crime, but the police incident number.
      Hopefully, that way someone from those two organisations will contact the police in order to conduct a joint investigation.

      The police recognise the need for partnership working, so would probably involve the right partnership agency to assist with their investigation anyway.

      If you can. find out who your local Police wildlife officers are- they will have individual work email addresses – that way if you experience problems reporting something through the 101 system , you can always email them directly.

      Remember because of rules of evidence and disclosure- the police may not be able to provide you with further details of the case- other than if someone has been charged with an offence or whether the investigation has been discontinued through lack of evidence. If the matter does proceed to court the police may ask you to provide a witness statement, and should contact you to arrange this.

      Hope this helps.

    2. I was always told if it is definitely a crime the police and in the case of wildlife RSPB investigations and only them initially if it is an illegal trap or trapping with a live bird. Get a crime number don’t be fobbed off. Welfare issues RSPCA. Any body else has no more powers than you or I get officialdom involved immediately.

    3. Thank you to everyone who has replied to my query. I am genuinely hugely grateful.

      The WIIS is s new investigatory body to me though I’ve read of it so that’s good to know.

      Making formal complaints is so time consuming it adds to the frustration – especially if the 101 officer refuses to give his name or number – as has happened to me – but I suppose I should complain. It’s trying to draw the fine line between trying to establish a good relationship with the police and feeling immense frustration at the apparent lack of interest or concern about wildlife crime.

      The local police have confirmed twice in writing that Durham Constabulary does not have a wildlife Crime Officer.

      I have been lobbying my MP for funds for a Wildlife Crime Officer. He has been fobbing me off with the reassurance that police funds in the area have been increased so there is funding available bla bla. Nothing concrete.

      I keep seeing Ed Turners name crop up in press releases from Durham Police but he’s not (I believe) a Wildlife Crime Officer so I guess he must be liaising with these other partner organisations. It would be great to have a key expert in the police to contact.

      I have a further query. Who do I report muirburn incidents to (late burning and smoke nuisance on the road.) I’ve had the police say it is nothing to do with them but is a local fire authority matter. That doesn’t sound right to me. Is it an environmental matter for the Env Agency/Scottish Env Agency?

      Thanks again for the great advice.

      1. Sect 161A Highways Act 1980. makes it an offence:
        If a person—
        (a)lights a fire on any land not forming part of a highway which consists of or comprises a carriageway; or
        (b)directs or permits a fire to be lit on any such land,
        and in consequence a user of any highway which consists of or comprises a carriageway is injured, interrupted or endangered by, or by smoke from, that fire or any other fire caused by that fire.

        This would include smoke from muirburn blowing across a road.

        The key words are a user of the carriageway is injured, interrupted or endangered by the smoke.

        If this is the case, and visibility for road users is seriously impeded, then the fire would be a police matter, as it is an issue of public safety, and an offence contrary to the Highways Act has been committed.!!
        Whilst the police won’t be responsible for extinguishing the fire, they have a duty to protect the public, and investigate any offences which may have been committed.
        They may liaise with the local authority highway department to get appropriate temporary road side warning signs erected, or the fire service if the fire appears out of control.

        You could try reporting out of season muirburn to Natural England of NatureScot via the contact details on their webpages.

        1. Absolutely brilliant! Thank you. It’s a pleasure reading your (and Paul and everyone else’s comments).

        2. Absolutely brilliant! Thank you. It’s a pleasure reading your (and Paul and everyone else’s comments).

  6. It is heartening to see several organisations marshalled to co-ordinate action in relation to criminal activities in several geographic areas.
    Hopefully, evidence leading to prosecution will be secured.
    It would not be especially surprising to find that the perpetrators of individual crimes are not strangers to each other.

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