After today’s court case, where gamekeeper Paul Allen was found guilty of seven wildlife, poisons and firearms offences, including the possession of six shot buzzards and banned poisons in March 2021 (here), it can now be revealed that the poisoned white-tailed eagle that was found dead on a Dorset estate in January 2022 was on the very same estate – the very same estate (the Shaftesbury Estate) that Dorset Police u-turned on their decision to search during their botched investigation into the poisoning of that eagle (see here).
Now, before I go any further, there are a few things that need to be clarified before anyone jumps to conclusions and makes libellous comments. Firstly, and importantly, there is NO EVIDENCE to indicate that the eagle was poisoned on the Shaftesbury Estate. The eagle was found dead there, yes, that is a statement of fact. However, we know from the eagle’s satellite tag data that in the days preceding its death it visited two or three other estates in the area. We also know that the poison that killed the eagle (Brodifacoum) is not a fast-acting poison and that this eagle’s health deteriorated over a number of days before it died. It is quite feasible that it picked up the bait elsewhere but succumbed to internal haemorrhaging once it had reached the Shaftesbury Estate.
On the same lines, it is also important to clarify that there is NO EVIDENCE that gamekeeper Paul Allen had any involvement in the poisoning of the white-tailed eagle. He just happened to work on the estate where the eagle was found dead. My understanding is that the shoot that Paul Allen worked on, although located on Shaftesbury Estate, was not directly associated with the estate; it was a privately-run shoot (perhaps tenanted) that was not under the management of Shaftesbury Estate.
What is up for discussion though, is Dorset Police’s decision NOT to search the Shaftesbury Estate as part of their investigation into the poisoning of that eagle in March 2022, when they were already acutely aware of the offences that gamekeeper Paul Allen had committed on the very same estate, a year earlier.
Dorset Police’s (now former) wildlife crime officer, Claire Dinsdale, had organised a search of the Shaftesbury Estate after the toxicology results came back on that eagle. She was absolutely right to do so, whether earlier offences had been committed there or not. It’s a no-brainer. This is policing for beginners. You find a poisoned eagle, you go and search the location where it was found to see if there’s any evidence to identify a potential perpetrator. That these other raptor persecution offences were already under investigation on the same estate just ramps up the justification for another search, surely?
Why Claire’s decision to undertake a search was overruled by senior officers, who then repeatedly said, for months afterwards, that their decision not to conduct a search was ‘proportionate’ and that ‘there weren’t any new leads’ to justify a search, just beggars belief. Their decision to u-turn on the search was made despite representations from the National Wildlife Crime Unit (NWCU) and the RSPB, based on the eagle’s satellite tag data and decades of experience investigating raptor persecution crimes. Something happened to cause the police u-turn. But what?
There is a strong stench of something sinister going on at Dorset Police HQ.
I’m certain that this latest revelation will lead to more questions being asked of Dorset Police, and from a much higher authority than this little blog.
Watch this space…