In April 2020, during the first lockdown, North Yorkshire Police conducted a search of Bransdale Estate in the North York Moors National Park where they discovered five dead buzzards that had been shoved in a hole under a large rock, presumably to conceal them.
X-rays confirmed that at least four of those buzzards had been shot. A later post-mortem suggested the 5th buzzard had also been shot.
Eight individuals were interviewed under caution.
North Yorkshire Police issued a press statement in May 2020, including an appeal for information (see here).
The following day, Channel 4 News featured the crime in a six minute film (here) which included shocking footage from the police officer’s body camera of when the dead buzzards were being pulled from the hole.
In early June 2020 I blogged about the game-shooting industry’s response to these abhorrent crimes – see here. Remember, this is the industry that has professed to supposedly having a ‘zero tolerance’ policy when it comes to raptor persecution. I’m not quite sure how a wall of silence from the main shooting organisations reflects this policy.
One group did comment (the North York Moors Moorland Association), some of whose members may well have been among those interviewed under caution by the police in the course of this investigation, but I’m not sure that the group’s decision to slag off the police was all that bright or did them any favours (see here).
Fast forward one year and four months to August 2021, and Inspector Matt Hagen of North Yorkshire Police revealed during an online interview about the difficulty of investigating raptor persecution incidents, that this particular criminal investigation is not going any further:
“There was one estate on the North York Moors National Park, there were five dead buzzards that were found. Four of them had definitely been shot and from the post mortem it suggested that the 5th one had been shot as well.
We’ve analysed mobile phones and all this takes such a long time and costs a lot of money and ultimately at the end of it all we are not going to be able to progress this case because we have to be able to prove beyond reasonable doubt, to a court, who is responsible, and on this case we’re not able to do that, unfortunately“.
It’s been suggested to me from several locals that a number of gamekeepers have since ‘moved on’ from this estate (to work on game-shooting estates in other parts of the UK) and also that the shooting rights have changed hands since these crimes were uncovered. If true, all coincidental, I’m sure.
I don’t know whether the estate is still lauded as an accredited member of the British Game Alliance, the industry’s so-called official marketing board, which now appears to have changed its name to British Game Assurance. Ironic really because the BGA doesn’t seem to do transparency (e.g. here and here).
So there we have it. Yet another disgraceful raptor persecution crime uncovered on a UK driven grouse shooting estate, inside a National Park no less, where armed culprits have got away with committing wildlife crimes without suffering any consequence whatsoever. And in this case, not through lack of effort by North Yorkshire Police.
[X-ray of one of the five shot buzzards found concealed in a hole on the grouse shooting estate]