Poisoned eagle investigation: “You and I need to get our ducks in the row on this one” – Dorset PCC tells Chris Loder MP

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

28 thoughts on “Poisoned eagle investigation: “You and I need to get our ducks in the row on this one” – Dorset PCC tells Chris Loder MP”

    1. Indeed, what an incredible job you do.

      I hope this gets the coverage it deserves, it appears pretty damning.

  1. The hidden sinews of what hegemony really means, and how it is practised, appears to have been revealed.

  2. Reading these emails. I wondering if the PCC is not fully in the loop, and this trail might lead more towards an email exchange between the MP and Dorset Police. Alternatively It could be there is another unknown party involved who has perhaps contacted Chris Loader and/or Dorset Police directly -hence EagleGate. Either way they appear to collude to squash the story. Meanwhile the decorated WPC is sadly off on long term sick leave.

    1. Hi Eric,

      There may well indeed be correspondence between Chris Loder MP and Dorset Police. I have been asking Dorset Police since 4th March for copies of any correspondence but my request was refused. I’ve appealed that decision but Dorset Police has failed to answer my emails. I will be escalating my complaint.

  3. Just for info: Regarding escalation of FOI/EIR complaints – if it’s a run of the mill (bog standard) complaint Information Commissioner’s office deal with them in order received and they are currently taking about 9 months to process. So I hope you can find some way to prioritise this case and it’s looked at urgently.

  4. Well done Ruth for persevering. As you say, it looks like there are more emails and I hope you uncover them. It definitely sounds like a conspiracy has been undertaken to cover it up. I don’t suppose that can be followed up in due course as it sounds to me like malfeasance in a public office

  5. That sentence “They will seek to pitch us against each and I do not want that to happen” is also rather peculiar.

    It doesn’t give the impression that he sees the police as neutral investigators of a potential crime.

  6. The last comment is significant – I’m in the car from 0930 – in other words phone me. And phone calls aren’t covered by FOI

  7. ….the whole thing stinks! Loder isn’t fit to be an MP….xxxx xxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx

    Great work Ruth….hopefully the nationals print more on this case as it unwinds further…and Loder starts to get some awkward questions asks of him through the House of Commons!
    Loder is xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx

    [Ed: Parts deleted as libellous]

  8. You activists are so suspicious! In any situation where nothing happened I am sure it is standard practice, in the interests of transparency and openness in public service, that those who didn’t do anything agree to work together to get their story straight about who didn’t do each of the things that didn’t happen. Equally I am sure there is nothing Freudian about assigning the non-event a code word which is derived from the most famous political cover-up in modern American history…….

    1. I would suggest the use of the term “EagleGate” might have more to do with the “party gate” scandal which was emerging at a similar time as these emails were being sent?

      Party gate was initially supposed to be a non event, something where one of the key players stated no rules had been broken and supposedly something which did not happen. And yet due to the persistence of certain journalists and newspapers, a proper police investigation ensued which resulted in the police issuing 126 fixed penalty notices, along with an internal government enquiry by Sue Gray, and finally a no confidence vote against the prime minister in which 148 Tory MPs voted against him. Hardly a situation in which nothing happened!

      So I think it is very telling that Chris Loder used the term EagleGate in his email.
      Why use this term?

      It is also not good practice in the interests of openness and transparency for those in public service to work together to agree their account of an event. Firstly it can lead to allegations of collusion, and equally it can lead to witnesses claiming to have seen or done something which other evidence clearly shows they couldn’t have witnessed or done, something which completely undermines their credibility as a witness!

      Ruth, like many others who are capable of looking at this incident with an enquiring and intelligent mind, can see that something is amiss.
      Since Sea Eagles are protected by law, raptor persecution is a national wildlife crime priority, and that evidence suggests the eagle involved in this incident was very likely killed by criminal activity, then it is only right that the public are provided with the truth as to exactly what did take place in Dorset, why a police investigation was prematurely stopped, and why a local politician so unusually involved himself at the outset in an ongoing police investigation.

      When it comes to wildlife crime people have every right to be suspicious, because otherwise the pro game shooting brigade would persist in their fantasy that raptor persecution doesn’t happen, despite the overwhelming evidence of criminal activity occurring the length and breadth of the UK.

  9. Is there no mechanism for redress when FOI requests are apparently deliberately obstructed for what we can now see is an attempt to conceal compromising information? I know some claim they are not bound by laws in this country but the police at least should be aware of them…

  10. I think we are getting a clear picture of the poison that infects wildlife crime poli cies in too many counties thanx
    to the great work of Ruth et al

  11. The biggest lesson these two plonkers (and others around the country – those who aren’t already savvy enough) will have learnt from this is “don’t get caught out” on your emails. Speak on the phone or even better meet in person – in private just blokes together, to arrange the getting of ones ducks in rows. The tried and tested way that most dodgy & sleazy dealing is done in our fairly rotten political system.

  12. I guess we won’t know the whole truth until the police officer on ‘ sick leave’ is interviewed. What pressure has she been subjected to?
    It’s just appalling that this sculldugerry can go on in modern times.

    1. I agree, but we are unlikely to hear anything from her. She will be under a strict censure. The fact that she has gone on (or has been placed on) indefinite sick leave tells me that she kicked up about the decision to close the investigation and was over-ruled on high. Either way, I am afraid, her career is finished sadly, but that is the way the modern police force works. They are increasingly beholden to the PCC – their Political masters. The days of policing without fear or favour are long gone. These days it is more like ‘What would be the best action for me to take which will further my career prospects’. If I were her, I would tender my resignation and get out. I would then hope that the RSPB would offer her some sort of recognition and employ her in some capacity or other in their Investigations Department.

      1. It seems to me that without either or both Forest England and the Roy Dennis Wildlife Foundation making an official complaint to the IOPC as the main injured parties (about the decision to close the investigation) that PC Claire Dinsdale QPM is left high-and-dry (although she will have Police Federation of England and Wales support).

        It is not only the behaviours of the Chief Constable, the Police and Crime Commissioner and the local MP which upset me (at the moment).

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