Regular blog readers will know that I’ve been chasing up correspondence between the Dorset Police & Crime Commissioner (PCC), David Sidwick, and Dorset MP Chris Loder, in relation to the poisoned white-tailed eagle found dead on an unnamed shooting estate in north Dorset in January 2022.
For new blog readers, this is the investigation that Dorset Police chose to close, prematurely, having refused to conduct a search of the estate for any evidence of criminality.
The decision to close the investigation has been described as ‘completely baffling‘ by the RSPB, who up until that point had been helping with the investigation. The decision also coincided with the Force’s award-winning wildlife crime officer going on long-term sick leave with stress, a re-branding of the Force’s wildlife crime team to remove the word ‘wildlife’, and with an astonishing outburst on Twitter by Chris Loder MP, who had criticised Dorset Police for spending time and resources on the investigation and who argued that eagles ‘weren’t welcome’ in Dorset. It’s clear from Loder’s entry on the Westminster Parliamentary Register of Interests that his electoral campaign had received significant financial support from at least one large Dorset estate where the landowners have links to the game-shooting industry and the Countryside Alliance.
Unsurprisingly, there were suspicions that undue political pressure had been put on to Dorset Police, resulting in the Force’s ridiculous decision to halt the investigation in mid-flow, so I submitted a series of Freedom of Information requests to Dorset Police and the Dorset PCC to try and establish exactly who had said what, to whom, and when.
My FoI request to the Dorset PCC was made on 4th March 2022. After a long period of silence (and thus a breach of the Freedom of Information Act), the PCC finally responded and sent me copies of some correspondence between PCC David Sidwick and Chris Loder MP about this poisoned eagle.
However, on examining the correspondence (here) it was obvious to me that some correspondence was ‘missing’, so I wrote back and asked for any ‘missing’ correspondence to be provided.
It turns out that there was indeed some ‘missing’ correspondence, and that has now been provided to me (or at least some of it has – I suspect there’s more, as I’ll explain below).
The PCC has sent me three emails that were ‘missing’ from the first batch.
The first ‘missing’ email was this one, from Chris Loder MP to PCC David Sidwick, dated 15th February 2022 at 06.27hrs:
The first line of this email is significant.
‘Dave, The Guardian will cover EagleGate tomorrow‘.
Why is this significant? Well, because according to the PCC, this is supposedly the very first piece of correspondence between Loder and Sidwick about this poisoned eagle, and yet Loder describes it as ‘EagleGate‘, which suggests to me that there had been earlier correspondence about it, otherwise Sidwick wouldn’t have known what Loder was on about.
The second ‘missing’ email was sent by Loder to Sidwick on the same day, as a follow-on to his first email. Loder sent this email to Sidwick at 08.19hrs:
The third ‘missing’ email was a response by Sidwick to Loder, sent on the same day at 08.40hrs:
“I think you and I need to get our ducks in the row on this one.
I will be in the car from 9.30“.
It couldn’t be clearer to me that there was some level of collusion going on between Sidwick and Loder and that we haven’t been told the full extent of it.
I have written back to the PCC to ask whether that first ‘missing’ email was actually the very first time Loder and Sidwick had corresponded about the poisoned eagle investigation, because starting his email with the phrase ‘EagleGate‘, without offering Sidwick any explanation about what that phrase meant, and Sidwick not asking Loder for an explanation of what he meant by the phrase ‘EagleGate‘, just isn’t credible. They both clearly knew what ‘EagleGate‘ meant, which means they had discussed this topic prior to that first email from Loder on 15th February 2022.
There’s more to come on this.
For previous blogs on this case, please see here