Nine raptors found shot & dumped in bags outside gamekeeper’s houses on Millden Estate and at the nearby River Esk in the Angus Glens

News has emerged that a total of nine birds of prey (eight buzzards and a sparrowhawk) have been found shot dead and dumped in bags in the Angus Glens.

We already knew about three of those shot buzzards (see here and here). They were found in bags outside two gamekeeper’s residences during a joint Scottish SPCA/Police Scotland raid on Millden Estate in October 2019 as part of an investigation into the criminal activities of depraved gamekeeper Rhys Owen Davies, who was convicted in May this year for vile animal abuse and received a custodial sentence in August 2022 (here).

Nobody was charged for the killing or possession of those three shot buzzards (although Police Scotland had identified a suspect, the Crown Office chose not to pursue a prosecution – see here) and the news about those three shot buzzards only emerged this year after I’d spent two and a half years asking Police Scotland for details. For unknown reasons, Police Scotland chose not to issue a public appeal for information about those three illegally-killed raptors.

I can now reveal that those three shot buzzards weren’t the only ones found dead in the Angus Glens that Police Scotland was keeping out of the news.

[An illegally shot buzzard. Not one of the ones found on Millden Estate]

Rumours have been circulating for a while that even more dead raptors had been found in connection to the raid on Millden Estate so last month I submitted another FoI to Police Scotland to request confirmation and this is the response I’ve just received:

So that’s a total of nine shot raptors, all found in bags. Note Police Scotland’s careful wording that the third bag containing six shot raptors was found at ‘a second location‘. I understand that this bag wasn’t found on Millden Estate but was discovered nearby on the bank of the River Esk, beyond the estate’s boundary.

This is a shocking story for a number of reasons.

Firstly, the number of dead raptors found shot and dumped in bags in this area of the Angus Glens, but secondly the decision of Police Scotland to keep quiet about them all for almost three years.

Whose interests are served by such silence? Not the public’s interest, that’s for sure, but the interests of the grouse-shooting industry, whose representatives are busily claiming that, “In Scotland, recorded [raptor persecution] crimes have effectively ceased on grouse moors” (Tim Baynes of Scottish Land & Estates writing in the August 2022 edition of The Field – I’ll publish his outrageous opinion piece shortly).

It’s just not good enough from Police Scotland. And this isn’t an isolated case either. More on another case shortly….

29 thoughts on “Nine raptors found shot & dumped in bags outside gamekeeper’s houses on Millden Estate and at the nearby River Esk in the Angus Glens”

  1. Furious! What hope do our raptors have if the police are keeping silent on what they discover?
    Which force is this – Angus? I am
    going to make a
    complaint! You couldn’t make this up!

  2. I won’t waste my breath too much on these delinquent retards who commit this stuff. Just to say that their days are well and truly numbered as public awareness grows. People won’t stand for this crap anymore. There is a new awakening of consciousness centred on animals, birds, nature and environment and it’s clearly gathering pace. At last. The self righteous preening actions of these toffee nosed dullards will soon be history. Its not a case of if but when.

  3. Police Scotland have proved themselves to be inferior to the SSPCA A charity more efficient that main law enforcement body.
    It’s about time PS raised their game and long, long overdue that the Scottish Government giving the SSPCA the necessary powers to investigate all aspects of raptor persecution.

  4. Complaint sent to Police Scotland today:

    I wish to complain about Police Scotland’s handling of this wildlife crime. Why has it only emerged on 26/09/22 that Police Scotland withheld further information relating to a further six shot raptors being found in the environs of Millden Estate, Angus? Why was this information withheld? Why did Police Scotland not issue a public appeal for information following the initial discovery of the (eventually) disclosed three shot buzzards (which only came to the public’s attention following IM-FOI-2022-1616). Why were the additional six shot raptors not mentioned in the FoI of IM-FOI-2022-1616? The resolution of raptor persecution in Scotland is a priority of the Scottish Government so can Police Scotland explain why they have remained silent for almost three years about nine persecuted raptors found at Millden Estate, Angus? I do not see how withholding this information could protect your investigation at the time. Why did you choose to only release this information piecemeal following the receipt of two Freedom of Information requests?

    1. Thanks Paul. What’s the point in vicarious liability when a seemingly clear case such as this, results in nothing meaningful.

  5. Unfortunately, when it comes to wildlife crime carried out by or on behalf of the rich and powerful, the whole UK judicial system is corrupt. It doesn’t matter how well meaning the plods on the front-line are the simple fact is that their senior officers either could not care less or do not want to upset either the peer group they belong to or the peer group they aspire to belong to.

    You can follow that up the entire judicial train: barristers to magistrates to judges are all either drawn from, or aspire to be, members of, that elite group on whose behalf these crimes take place.

    1. Well said…..to these awful people, wildlife is regarded as either target practice or an inconvenience that must be removed….there is no understanding of our place in nature and precious little integrity in evidence at any level….

    2. Simon, that’s demonstrably untrue.

      There are some excellent police officers, from junior to senior levels, working to tackle wildlife crime. Equally, there are some that simply shouldn’t be in the job because either they’ve got conflicting interests, are corrupt, or plain incompetent.

      The same carries for members of the legal profession.

      It’s unhelpful, and inaccurate, to paint them as all the same.

      1. I am sorry but, whatever the difficulties, until we start seeing more prosecutions, more successful trials and meaningful, custodial sentences, and the landowners carrying the can, alongside their minions, for commissioning their crimes, I will retain the opinion that the entire system is corrupt when it comes to investigating and prosecuting non-plebeian wildlife crime.

        It is not enough to see the police successfully solving badger baiting, hare coursing or dog fighting crimes: we need to see some meaningful prosecutions for killing birds of prey with proper sentences.

    3. Perhaps it’s only a distinction of importance to lawyers (I’m not one), but AFAIK no barristers ply their trade in Scotland.

  6. I agree that public awareness of the activities of these thugs is growing but these people seem to have powerful friends so dogged determination is key to a final victory of making these activities absolutely and totally unacceptable

  7. Once again a police force have kept things quiet for too long, making it likely that any (potential) witnesses might have forgotten what they might have seen years ago. Cases like this should be made public as soon as possible, so long as it doesn’t jeopordise an ongoing investigation. And if there is a risk of jeopordising a case or evidence being tampered with, then the police should in my opinion wait weeks (and not years!) before making an appeal for info.
    And why keep dead, shot raptors in bags and later dump them, rather than just digging a hole / stuffing the corpse in a hedge or wall / trampling the evidence into a bog etc. etc. like gamekeepers seem to do (as evidenced in several cases highlighted in this blog)? Does someone go round and collect dead raptors from gamekeepers and then dump them, perhaps off-site so someone else becomes suspected of committing a crime? Or do they collect dead raptors and brag about them over lunch, glaoting over the corpses?
    And where is the response from the Scottish Gamekeeper’s Association? I though they had zero tolerance of such crimes (ha ha)?

    1. My thoughts on why were the corpses not disposed of at the time. I have no knowledge of this case. But it got me thinking of a story (I believed it 100% because of where it came from) of a keeper who took over on an estate where the previous keeper had been pretty “easy going on vermin”. He was shooting that much protected stuff that he stockpiled them in feed bags in holes etc and had a big burn up every few days in a 45 gallon drum next to a river, and then shovelled the ashes into the river every time he finished. He repeated this for a couple of years until he was “on top of things” – then went back to usual system of burying / hiding / podging into peat / burning in each instance.

  8. It is beyond belief.
    What are the police there for?
    Obviously not doing anything about crimes against raptors it would seem.
    Utterly deplorable.
    The Scottish government should be reprimanding Police Scotland; asking for answers as to why nothing was reported for three years; demanding they start prosecutions immediately.
    Or are they as weak-willed?

  9. I am not at all surprised — either about the actions of Tayside Police or about the additional 5 more dead buzzards and a sparrowhawk. Having lived very, very close to where these birds were found for a number of years I am well aware of the power dynamics of the area. In essence although the mechanisms for power have changed since those heady post-Culloden times, who wields it and where it manifests remains the same. Indeed, it appears to stretch all the way xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx where a gamekeeper who was issued a caution by Tayside Police and told to stop harrassing me. This should have been an opportunity to revise how suitable he was to possess a firearms licence but that was not how it turned out. He simply vanished from the job one day and I was informed by other Glen inhabitants that he had a new job at xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx as a beat keeper. To my knowledge he is still in situ but has now been promoted. Indeed, the last time I saw him was xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx

    One of the local wildlife policmen who told my wife that he “knew who was causing all the trouble up here”, (xxxxxx) ignorant of the fact it was my wife he was talking too as he knew only too well that all the locals at that time were sworn to “omerta” or greatm trouble would result .. as Ii was to find out myself. This man went on to xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx

    I could say a lot more about the grooming of our locally based political representatives too but will keep my peace at this point.

    As long as those engaged in trying to end raptor and other wildlife crimes remain silent — usually frightned into silence by an understanding of the consequences — then little will change. Progress is usually fuelled by the acceptance that it will involve personal sacrifice at some point — and, to be honest, few seem willing to take that step.

    This undercover battle that has been taking place for at least 70 years and has borne no fruit in terms of ending — or even reducing — wildlife crime will continue to be barren unless people step forward with their own stories and engage the public in a meaningful way. Hidden camera’s should be deployed and put on Youtube or the like. As we know that nothing wil lcome from the legal avenues these video’s xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx The loss will be theirs, not the anti-raptor persecution lobby. The same should be done with illegal traps and any other dodgy behaviour they might catch.

    As using Official Channels is not working — it’s like handing reports and evidence of back robberies to thsoe who are planning and have executed them — then recourse to other, legal, methods must be considered. If not we are but “a sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal.”

    [Ed: George, thanks for your comment. You’ll note I’d redacted some information about the gamekeeper who received a police caution for harassing you. Once an individual has received a police caution it’s immediately considered ‘spent’ so it’s unlawful to then identify that individual. And although you didn’t name him, the information you provided makes him easily identifiable, hence the redactions. I’ve also redacted your suggestions about the use of social media because I’m not prepared to publish suggestions that could hamper a genuine police investigation]

    1. Aye, Fair enough. I’m long enough in the tooth to know how rules, regulations and legal matters are weighted. Ii respect your judgement. TY for everything you do

    2. As an afterthought, and in the light of your reply, I should mention that the gamekeeper who received a police caution for assault/harrassment did so after the SECOND offence I reported. It was after he approached me for a THIRD time in the same abusive fashion and I complained to Tayside Ppolice once more that he moved to a Government financed organisation. I had been told that if he offended again more serious action would be taken. I heard no more about it.
      I didn’t relate the full details in my first post due to the time interval involved.

  10. I am dismayed by the lack of action by Police Scotland when this came to light. Sadly, it has become common place in Scotland now.

  11. Your comments above remind me of the experience of a pal who tried to speak to John Swinney about the awful slaughter of beavers in Perthshire by potato farmers about six years ago.
    The response?
    John Swinney said: “I couldn’t give a f££ck about beavers!”

  12. The Wildlife Detective was equally baffled by the police silence. Worth reading his comments…..

    Sent from Samsung Mobile on O2

    1. Not a chance Stephen. Ii had dealings with him previously with regatrd to wildlife crime in the very glen we are talking about.

  13. This is disgusting, when is someone going to do something about these cruel and disgusting people, what lovely birds these are to be treated this way come on get these cruel people braught to justice

  14. Not amazed but really sorry and actually sad and sickened by the abuse of raptors, continual abuse of those trying to save them. Thank again Ruth for continuing to highlight these terrible crimes. Di

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