Millden Estate gamekeeper jailed for sadistic animal cruelty – media coverage

Further to yesterday’s news that Rhys Owen Davies, 28, a gamekeeper employed by Millden Estate in the Angus Glens has been jailed for a series of sadistic animal cruelty offences (here), here is a statement issued by the Crown Office & Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS):

Former gamekeeper jailed for animal fighting and gun offences

A 28-year-old man who kept and trained dogs for fighting has been sentenced to 210 days imprisonment, banned from keeping animals for 15 years and fined £1800 for firearms offences.

Rhys Davies, a former gamekeeper at Millden Estate near Glenesk, was sentenced at Forfar Sheriff Court today after pleading guilty to keeping five dogs for animal fighting from 24 April 2018 to 8 October 2019.  

Davies also pled guilty to causing unnecessary suffering to two dogs by failing to provide veterinary treatment and to breaching the conditions of his firearms licence by having unsecured firearms and ammunition in his home at Turnbrae House. 

The court heard that an employee of a photo print company contacted the Scottish SPCA with serious concerns about the welfare of several dogs pictured in an order for 58 images placed by Davies. 

Many of the dogs showed progressively more serious facial injuries over the period the images were taken and several males posing and digging into what looked like badger setts or fox dens. There were numerous images showing dead foxes.  

The Scottish SPCA identified them as ‘trophy’ photographs showing a group of males engaging in the organised fighting and killing of wild animals over an extended period.  

Davies was easily identifiable in many of the images. 

Inspectors from the Scottish SPCA and officers from Police Scotland went to Davies’ home in Brechin with a warrant on the morning of 8 October 2019.  

Police found a Benelli shotgun propped against a wall near the front door, two rifles were also found, a Tikka .243 rifle on the sofa and a CZ rifle in the hall cupboard next to the open gun cabinet. 

An assortment of ammunition, including 23 bullets in a pot on the floor, five in a carrier bag behind the front door and one on top of a bed were seized by police. 

Eleven dogs were found within kennels on the property. Five Patterdale Terrier dogs had obvious signs of injury.   

Two of the terriers, Lola and Tuck, had fresh injuries. Lola’s were to her mouth and lower jaw and Tuck had part of his lower face missing and fresh injuries which produced an obvious smell when near the dog. There were also healing wounds to his forelegs. 

All the dogs were taken to Scottish SPCA facilities for examination and treatment. 

Inspectors found equipment on the property linked to illegal animal fighting including, locator collars, medication, needles and syringes and a staple gun used to staple up injuries.  

Badger DNA was found on a red locator collar following forensic examination. 

Photobooks were recovered from the property like the print order placed by Davies. 

Davies was interviewed under caution and admitted that the dogs had not received veterinary treatment in the time that he had owned them. He denied using the dogs to fight or kill foxes or badgers and claimed they had sustained injury from legal ratting and foxing. 

Davies agreed to sign all the terrier dogs over to the Scottish SPCA for rehoming. 

The injured dogs were examined by specialist vets. Their expert opinion was that the dogs had been kept for the purposes of animal fighting and their injuries were sustained from face-to-face combat with badgers or foxes. 

Davies’ phone was seized during the search and images of him engaged in digging activities and the dogs with fresh wounds were found. There were also numerous conversations with associates referencing digging activities and sharing photographs showing dogs pulling badgers out of setts.  

A number of voice messages with associates were also found where they discussed digging with the dogs. In one message, Davies’ asks an individual about the size of photographs to print to make a digging album. Davies states, “And if I do get the knock for it at least everything’s all in the one place for them to find”. 

GPS location data from Davies’ phone also placed him in two rural locations on 21 September 2019 where he was found to have had a conversation with the same associate about meeting to bait and later that night his associate sent an image of Davies standing in a large whole holding one of the terrier dogs. 

Speaking after the sentencing, Karon Rollo, Head of the Wildlife and Environmental Crime Unit of COPFS said: 

“Animal fighting is a cruel illegal activity which causes terrible and unnecessary suffering to animals. 

  “The evidence clearly shows the scope of the involvement Rhys Davies had with an organised group that took pleasure in killing wild animals in such a wicked and inhumane manner. 

“I welcome the sentence and the granting of the order preventing him from keeping animals for 15 years. I would like to thank Police Scotland and the Scottish SPCA for their part in investigating and gathering evidence of these offences. 

“Hopefully this prosecution and the sentence will serve as a message to others who would cause such suffering that there are consequences and that they will be held to account for their actions and could also lose their liberty. 

“COPFS will continue to work to ensure those who participate in these barbaric practices are prosecuted and would encourage anyone who may have information on animal fighting to contact Police Scotland or the Scottish SPCA.” 

ENDS

Other media coverage:

Scottish SPCA here

STV News here

The Herald here

Daily Record here

The Guardian here

The Courier here

BBC News here

The Times here

I’ll be blogging further about this case over the next few days.

8 thoughts on “Millden Estate gamekeeper jailed for sadistic animal cruelty – media coverage”

  1. It isn’t anything like justice. Can they appeal the sentence in Scotland? I know that in England there is a right of appeal if a sentence is considered too lenient.

    1. Rhys has a heart of gold he never once in his life has been involved in criminal activity he controlled vermin legally most of the time except wen a rogue/killer badger needed exterminated and aye wos by his side use say it’s cruel is it not cruel to shoot them as well but the government allow that it’s a historic way of life the dogs wer never once forced to hunt they love it because they are hunting dogs bred to work we are hunting men bred to hunt but most of use wankers are the same as the sheriff that jailed him and think killing animals is worse than touching kids bunch a beasts get it up the lot of use 🖕 #borntohuntfuktheban

  2. and Millden Estate [not unknown to those of us who have been fighting wildlife crime for decades] and all its other staff will no doubt deny any knowledge of this criminal’s activities….yet another rotten apple in the barrel?

  3. Such a ridiculously short sentence for such heinous crimes against wildlife; with total disregard for laws regarding the keeping of guns on his property. He should have received a far longer sentence and a much heavier fine to hopefully deter others. And he should never, for the remainder of his life, be allowed to keep any animal.
    Those poor dogs must still be suffering from such horrific injuries inflicted, being forced to fight, and then having them stapled up, the tears and the rips, must be so very painful too.
    Are those others in the photos not recognisable and guilty by association with this deplorable excuse for a man? And prosecuted similarly? If not, they should be.

  4. The sentence is not sufficient in length considering that only a portion is actually served before he is released. His compatriots should also be in the dock for being involved in the same cruelty. They can all surely be identified from the photographs. Another case of the CPS opting out for an easy conviction of only one individual.
    Thanks too that we have SSPCA officers who have no axes to grind when going after such individuals and obtaining the evidence used in the prosecution. Well done to them.

    1. “The sentence is not sufficient in length considering…” But sentencing for these crimes has now been substantially increased.

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