Killing with impunity: Birdcrime 2013 published

Birdcrime 2013The RSPB has published its latest annual report on crimes against birds in the UK in 2013.

Their press release here.

The killing goes on, with impunity.

76 individual birds & other animals were confirmed illegally poisoned in 2013. This is more than double the figure from 2012 (29 confirmed victims).

Poisoning victims in 2013 included 30 buzzards, 20 red kites, 1 golden eagle and 1 white-tailed eagle.

68 confirmed incidents involved the shooting or destruction of birds of prey. Victims included two hen harriers, two marsh harriers and 5 peregrines.

These are just the confirmed incidents. A total of 338 incidents were reported to the RSPB in 2013, with North Yorkshire once again being the worst location. There’s also a worrying number of incidents from Powys in South Wales, seemingly relating to poisoned baits.

Birdcrime 2013 is a thoroughly depressing read. The RSPB calls on the shooting industry, again, to clean up its act. Judging by the contents of this report, that’s a seemingly futile request.

Well done and thanks to the RSPB for not only compiling these thorough statistics but importantly, for sharing them in the public domain.

Download Birdcrime 2013: Birdcrime 2013

Hen harrier Bowland Betty, found shot dead on a grouse moor in North Yorkshire. (Photo by Natural England).

Bowland Betty

More on gamekeeper Allen Lambert, convicted mass poisoner at Stody Estate

allen-lambert-stody-estateFollowing the conviction yesterday of Stody Estate’s former gamekeeper, Allen Lambert (see here), more details are emerging about this case.

Lambert had pleaded guilty to five other charges at an earlier hearing (three offences of illegal storage and use of pesticides and unlawful possession of nine buzzards –  see here). However, he had denied charges relating to the illegal killing of 11 raptors (10 buzzards & 1 sparrowhawk) and possession of pesticides and other items capable of being used to prepare poisoned baits. It was these denials that triggered yesterday’s trial at Norwich Magistrates Court.

Investigators had found a sack of nine poisoned buzzards on a quad bike, the banned pesticide Mevinphos in Lambert’s Land Rover, and another banned pesticide, Aldicarb, in his garage. One of the containers was a bucket with a syringe and a number of needles – the classic ‘poisoner’s kit’ used to inject poison into baits. More dead birds (including a tawny owl and five buzzards) were also found on the estate close to pheasant feeding bins but were too decomposed for analysis.

The prosecution argued that Lambert had poisoned the birds on the estate and the reason they were in a sack on a quad bike in an outbuilding at his house was because he was in the process of removing the evidence. Lambert claimed he hadn’t poisoned the birds at all – he said they’d been dumped on the estate by a dog-walker with a vendetta against him (yes, that old chestnut). He said the ‘poisoner’s kit’ had been left in his garage by a now-deceased friend (yes, another old chestnut). Lambert claimed he’d only once used the poison found in his vehicle, and that was seven years ago to kill a “tricky fox”.

Fortunately, District Judge Peter Veits said he found Lambert a non-credible witness. He said: “In short, I find his explanation of a vendetta against him implausible“. He went on to say that the only other explanation was that Lambert had indeed poisoned the birds and all the evidence pointed to that.

He adjourned sentencing until 6th November so background reports could be prepared. However, don’t hold your breath for a custodial sentence……the judge told Lambert that although the offences crossed the custody threshold, this would not necessarily mean he would be jailed  as he would take in to account “the total lack of supervision” and training he’d received from his employer.  Judge Veits said: “There would appear to be a complete lack of control over poisons on the estate” and “In many other ways your employers might have been in the dock themselves for some of these offences involving poison on their property“.

This “total lack of supervision” is an interesting suggestion. Several years ago (2008), the Field Sports Magazine published an article on Stody Estate in their ‘shoot review‘ section. Interestingly, since proceedings began against Lambert, this particular review has ‘disappeared’ from the Field Sports Magazine’s website. Luckily, we had already saved a copy and we reproduce it here. It provides a telling insight in to the relationship Lambert had with his employer, and the level of involvement that Lambert’s employer had with the game-shooting on the estate:

Fieldsports Magazine Shoot Review

Stody Estate, Norfolk

A few years ago, Mike Barnes was invited to shoot in North Norfolk. The shoot was new to him and as such the day carried the added element of surprise. And what surprise it turned out to be!

In January last year I was invited to shoot in North Norfolk. The shoot was new to me and as such the day carried the added element of surprise. And what surprise! While I have never paid any attention to those who dismiss Norfolk as boringly flat – they clearly don’t know the county – I was in awe on the third drive of the morning. Admittedly it was a breezy January day, but the pheasants which flew from Arabella’s were little short of spectacular. The Guns were lined out across a dip in front of the tiny village of Stody. A wood to one side, and another wood in front.

The first couple of cock pheasants to appear made an impressive entrance. More followed in equally majestic style. I was the end Gun on the right, and had four or five shots – all good sporting birds. But looking down the line towards the centre pegs at the base of the dip, the Guns were faced with the finest classically presented high pheasants you could ever wish to see. And yes, this was Norfolk. The Stody estate to be precise, home of the MacNicol family.

Ian MacNicol died suddenly two years ago at the age of 62. A legendary figure in farming and country circles, he left many legacies not least the impact he had not only on Stody but in many aspects of rural life in Britain. He enjoyed 25 years of active involvement with the CLA, and was president from 1997 to 1999 during which time he made light of the task of enlightening the New Labour government. He pioneered access. He led by example in so many areas and Stody gave him the platform to do it.

He inherited the estate from his stepfather when he was just 19 while at Cirencester and following a couple of years’ qualifying as a chartered surveyor with John D. Wood in London, he took over the running of the estate in 1963. In 1974 he married Adel. They made a great couple, and it was Adel who was hosting on the day of my visit.

Situated near Melton Constable, Stody comprises 4,000 acres of the Glaven Valley, a small chalk stream that cuts through the Cromer-Holt ridge, surely one of the prettiest and least spoilt areas of rural England. A glacial freak of nature, of wooded hills and arable land, small villages, delightful churches and wild brown trout.

It is tailor made for shooting, but the nature of the sport has changed considerably over the years. Adel explained: “There are 700 acres of mixed woodland. Sadly a lot of the hardwoods were cut down during the war and softwoods were planted for their quick growth. However since the late 1960s, as part of a woodland management scheme, we have planted a lot of mixed woodland with a high ratio of broadleaf trees.

“When Ian took over from the syndicate which previously shot here, he let the two outside beats and kept the central part for the family. Much of the shooting was in woodland rides, using undulations and contours to best effect.”

“The arrival of new gamekeeper Allan Lambert in 1990 prompted a rethink. “Both Ian and Allan concluded that they would help the wild population and release cocks only. Ian could see longer term that the writing was on the wall – there would be pressure on the rearing of game.” Certain areas were shot lightly. The grey partridge population had also collapsed after the good times of the Seventies, just like everywhere else.

Son Charlie, 27, who works in London in corporate finance, is now shoot captain and picks up the story: “Dad persevered with not rearing partridges, which after the first two or three years must have been a bit of a test, and then he had the pressure of two boys who were mustard keen – brother George and myself – so in 2002 we started to rear and release some French partridges. It has undoubtedly been a great success. We present them in very much the traditional Norfolk way, with Guns pegged out 15-20 yards back from a tall hedgerow (preferably a double hedgerow), and the game cover sited 50 yards back the other side. The picker-ups are a long way back, so that we can shoot behind. Allan and his team drive them superbly, and two of the drives in particular, Pynkney and The Wongs, give spectacular shooting all along the line.”

On the subject of hedgerows, Stody has 90 kilometres of them and 100 kilometres of grass margins. Ian was one of the first to sign up ten years ago for entry level stewardship and the estate has recently entered into the higher level scheme.

They have taken part in the GWCT partridge count scheme for several years. Charlie adds: “As of three years ago we now put down around 100 English partridges each year. They are reared under bantams from day-olds, and we put them out in batches of 20-30 in areas well away from the redlegs. “We always see some on shoot days, but we don’t shoot them – other than by mistake. But if this does happen it is not a hanging offence! Very few get shot and we feel that by doing this we can only help build a stock.”

As for pheasants, Charlie explains that they have tried them all, or nearly! “Michigan, Traditional, Scandinavian, Chinese, and for the last two years Bizantes – the Bizantes fly very well, and are reasonable to hold. We used to buy them in as day-olds but as this takes Allan away from vermin control (one of his key strengths) at an important time, we now go for poults.” Most covers are a mixture of maize, with surrounding wild bird strips. The aim is to provide both food and cover. And they always leave stubbles, with mustard, for the partridges.

Adel adds: “Ian was always a keen shooting man, but most of all he saw shooting fitting in as integral to conservation and wildlife. He was passionate about the rural way of life and all it entailed.”

He planted and named woods after each of their four children – Arabella’s was the wood to which I referred earlier, while there are further woods for Charlie, George and Katie. “I will look to continue to run the shoot in the same way as my father” said Charlie. “It is a family shoot in which we have ten main days, a keeper’s day and an estate day. We have a tremendously loyal team of beaters and pickers-up, many of whom have been with us for years, and all are an integral part of both the day and the wider shoot.” The shot game goes to the local butcher.

“As for the sport, we will always look to present the best birds possible, favouring bags of around 200. We don’t start with the partridges until late October, then one more partridge day before pheasants in mid-November. And we try to introduce at least one new drive every year. This year we have trebled the size of a wood planted in 1996 when my father was High Sheriff of Norfolk. We call it Sheriff’s Wood.” A passion for shooting runs in the family. The two brothers are very keen, and both had a traditional introduction. “I carried an empty .410 for a full season” explained Charlie. “I had shot woodpigeons and flighted duck but then at the age of 14 before a shooting day I stood in front of the whole party at breakfast and by heart recited Mark Beaufoy’s If A Sportsman True You’d Be. Then went into the field and stood in front of my father. Never to be forgotten. Friends were subsequently incredibly kind with invitations.”

Adel enjoys the shoot days with her labrador, Lochie, but doesn’t carry a gun. “I stalk in Scotland, but I had three brothers who were also keen on shooting.” Her grandfather was Richmond Watson, founder of West London Shooting School. All in all a rich sporting pedigree which sons Charlie and George have fully embraced and look set to enjoy many happy seasons in the years to come at Stody.

Ian MacNicol and the CLA

Ian MacNicol was the CLA’s representative at the CLA Game Fair and contributed much towards the success it has become. He was CLA President from 1997-1999, and deputy president during the preceding two years. He saw what an important role the fair could play in bringing the countryside and rural businesses to the attention of the decision makers. He also helped advise the government on the removal of lots of red tape and was also a spokesman on foot and mouth.

One of the things he promoted amongst estate owners was a greater degree of access. Adel explains: “He was very keen on voluntary access, something which he pioneered here at Stody, with 13 miles of permissive paths and two designated areas of three acres where dogs can be walked off the lead. The response was good and others followed suit.” In fact with the right to roam debate he secured many practical concessions.

He was awarded OBE for services to agriculture in 2001. “Ian was always fairly forward thinking, and very conscious of a need to farm with a conservation bent. But never forgetting that farming was a business – we have never farmed around the shooting. We have an excellent farm manager in Ross Haddow who as a shooting man understands both sides. Whilst we do all we can to help game, without farming we wouldn’t have a shoot.” Following his presidency of the CLA he was chairman of the Royal Agricultural Society, where he began the revitalisation of the Royal Show and National Agriculture Centre at Stoneleigh. He had a long established interest in west country livestock markets and pioneered electrical marketing to minimise animal movements. He was a former Game Conservancy trustee and founding chairman of the Norfolk branch, a founder chairman of North Norfolk Radio and director of East Port Great Yarmouth. A great supporter of the National Garden Scheme, he was also involved in any number of local charities and organisations.

He somehow managed to fit it all in and also be great fun and find precious time for his family – a one-off, just like Stody itself.

The keeper

Gamekeeper Allan Lambert (59) joined Stody from nearby Foxley in 1990, and quickly developed a good understanding with his new boss. They made the decision to release cocks only in that first year. “It was a slow start as there was so much vermin. We shot 12,000 rabbits which must have accounted for 300 acres of unharvestable crop. We also took 75 foxes in the first three months, and we still account for 130-180 per year. There is a lot of unkeepered ground in the area.

Consequently there were only three days pheasant shooting in that first year. But they persevered. “People try releasing cocks only but it takes time. They get despondent with early results and pack up after three or four years, but it can take seven or eight years before you start to see results.

“Now we are seeing a lot of hens, which are of course all wild. In a really good season we will get a return of 80%, but generally we look for 70%.” Wild stock is therefore very significant on shoot days. They are also good fliers. Many of the young wild are now of Michigan Blue strain, from previous generations of cocks released four or five years ago.

“We are now releasing Bizantes, which we have been very happy with. They are big birds, so the butcher likes them – but they also fly well.” He told me that there are higher drives than Arabella’s, particularly when the wind isn’t so strong. “With the small valleys a very strong wind has a detrimental effect – anything over 15mph is too much.”

They are trying to boost grey partridge stocks and are enjoying some success. “Obviously it depends on the weather, and modern farming is challenging them, but we have a nice sprinkling of greys. We rear 100 under bantams and release them in coveys. I would think that in a normal year we will see 150-200 young English.”

His wife Jackie cooks the shoot meals, while he relies on a regular team of helpers on shoot days. “I have a really good team of beaters, some of them have been with me for nearly 30 years. John Kingsley, a retired estate employee takes charge of the beaters wagon while Simon Rouse drives the Guns’ vintage lorry.

Allan is a man dedicated to his job, having never taken a day off with illness in 30 years. Stody is at his heart and he clearly enjoys working here. “They are a very good family to work for” he adds, and you know he means it.

His passion is wild game. With foxes, crows, magpies, rooks and squirrels, he is kept busy. “But there are many people who don’t realise that unless we controlled vermin, never mind pheasants, there would be no other wildlife to speak of.”


It should be noted that Ian MacNicol, a former CLA President and a former GWCT Trustee, died in 2006 and Stody Estate is now in the hands of his family. The Farm Manager, Ross Haddow, has been at Stody since 1992 (two years after Lambert was hired) and has won awards for his work (see here). Frighteningly, ‘around 900 primary school youngsters visit the farm each year to see a variety of farm enterprises’.

It’s also interesting to note that Lambert was not suspended or sacked after his arrest – it’s been reported that he actually retired ‘some months after his arrest’. Fascinating.

The National Gamekeepers’ Organisation has published a statement about Lambert’s conviction, stating that he isn’t, and never was, a member of their outfit. They also claim that Lambert is one of the “very, very few” gamekeepers who break the law. Hmm, according to our reckoning, Lambert is actually the 27th gamekeeper to be convicted of wildlife crime offences in the last 3.5 years (see here) – that seems more than a “very, very few” and remember these are only the ones who’ve been caught! According to the RSPB, since 1990, over 100 gamekeepers have been convicted for crimes against birds of prey.

Full credit to the RSPB Investigations Team, Norfolk Constabulary, Natural England and the Crown Prosecution Service in this case. It’s exceptionally rare that a conviction is gained for actually poisoning raptors – usually it’s just a conviction for possession or storage of a banned pesticide. Now we have to wait to see whether their hard work results in a meaningful sentence…..

Here are some media reports about Lambert’s conviction:

RSPB news here

BBC news here

Guardian here

Dereham Times here

National Gamekeepers’ Organisation here

Telegraph here

Mark Avery’s blog here

Blog by RSPB Investigator Guy Shorrock here

UPDATE 6/11/14: Lambert’s sentencing here

Case against Stody Estate gamekeeper Allen Lambert: part 6

scales of justiceThe trial of (now former) Stody Estate gamekeeper, Allen Charles Lambert, 65, is due to take place today at Norwich Magistrates Court.

Lambert is facing a series of charges for offences alleged to have taken place 18 months ago in April 2013.

Background to this case here.

UPDATE 18.15HRS: CONVICTED! Details here.

Case against Stody Estate gamekeeper Allen Lambert: part 5

scales of justiceA new trial date has been set in the case against (now former) Stody Estate gamekeeper, Allen Lambert.

At a previous court hearing in December 2013, Lambert, 64, pleaded guilty to storing Mevinphos and Aldicarb pesticides at the Stody Estate in north Norfolk on or about 4th April 2013, as well as storing them without reasonable precautions.

He also admitted a charge of failing to comply with a firearms certificate by poor storage of a .22 Mauser.

He denied further charges including intentionally killing 14 buzzards, a sparrowhawk and a tawny owl between April 1-4 2013, as well as a charge of keeping nine dead buzzards on 4th April 2013.

His trial was previously due to begin in May 2014 but it was adjourned. The new trial date is 1st October 2014.

Previous blogs about this case here, here, here and here.

Gamekeeper convicted for pole-trapping offences

tawny owlMark Stevens, a self-employed gamekeeper who worked on Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Sydmonton Court Estate in Hampshire, has been convicted of setting two illegal traps and has been fined £700 with £650 court costs and a £50 victim surcharge.

Stevens, 42, admitted setting the two pole traps at a pheasant release pen in August last year but claimed he was targeting a grey squirrel that had been eating the pheasants’ food. The traps, which were not set on Lloyd Webber’s estate but on land at nearby Echinnswell, were discovered after a member of the public found a tawny owl hanging upside down with its leg caught in one of the traps. Its leg injuries were so severe it had to be euthanised by a vet.

According to Stevens’ solicitor, the setting of the traps was ‘accidental’.

Well done to the RSPB Investigations Team, Hampshire Constabulary and the Crown Prosecution Service for securing a conviction.

Pole-trapping has been illegal for over 100 years. Stevens is the latest of a number of gamekeepers recently convicted for this barbaric practice (e.g. see here and here). Unsurprisingly, all of them have claimed the traps were targeting squirrels and not birds of prey (as if that makes a difference).

RSPB Investigations video here (WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT)

RSPB Investigations blog here

News story in Daily Mail here

News story on BBC here


Death toll rises again in Ross-shire massacre as £5k reward offered

red kites gigrin david bowmanThe death toll in what we are calling the Ross-shire Massacre has risen again today with the discovery of another poisoned raptor. Today’s dead red kite is the 10th to be discovered in the last fortnight in a small area in Conon Bridge, along with four buzzards, bringing the total found to date to fourteen.

RSPB Scotland is offering a £5,000 reward for any information that leads to a successful conviction. Their money is probably quite safe.

Chairman of the Scottish Gamekeepers’ Association, Alex Hogg, has put out the following statement:

The discovery of so many birds in one area is unprecedented and alarming“.

He’s either deliberately lying to make out that the mass killing of raptors in one area has never happened before or he has a very short memory:

In 2004, a gamekeeper on the Barns Estate in the Scottish Borders was convicted of poisoning 20 raptors (18 buzzards, 1 goshawk and 1 tawny owl). 25 dead raptors had been discovered but five were too badly decomposed to establish their cause of death (see here).

In 2013, gamekeeper Colin Burne was convicted of killing seven buzzards at the Whinfell Plantation, Penrith, Cumbria. A total of 12 dead birds had been found but five were too badly decomposed to establish their cause of death (see here).

This year, there is an on-going court case against a gamekeeper from the Stody Estate, Norfolk, after the discovery of 16 dead raptors (14 buzzards, 1 sparrowhawk and 1 tawny owl). Allen Lambert has admitted to storing two banned pesticides but he has denied killing the raptors. His trial begins in May (see here).

So far from this current incident being ‘unprecedented’, there are examples dating from 10 years ago right up to the present day of multiple dead raptors being found in a single incident – a telling indictment of just how little progress has been made in addressing this disgusting crime.

There’s also a statement on the SGA facebook page that includes this:

Articles in the Telegraph and Herald this week indicated, through research, that there is little or no shooting interests in the area” [Conon Bridge, Ross-shire, where the latest atrocity is gradually being revealed].

That’s also inaccurate. There may not be a driven grouse moor in the immediate area but there certainly are shooting interests…

Photo of red kites at Gigrin Farm, Wales, by David Bowman.

Previous blogs on the Ross-shire Massacre here, here and here.

Verdict against Scottish gamekeeper James Marsh: ‘not proven’

A Larsen Trap John EvesonThe eight-day trial of Scottish gamekeeper James Marsh ended at Stirling Sheriff Court last week with a verdict of ‘not proven’.

The case centred on the discovery of a Larsen trap on the Duntreath Estate on 1st April 2012. The trap, found by a walker, was situated underneath a crag and contained a Jay (in the trap’s decoy compartment) and a Tawny Owl (within the catching compartment). The Tawny Owl was reportedly close to death. The trap had an identification tag which was registered to Duntreath Estate and the walker alerted the SSPCA to the trap. It was suspected that gamekeeper Marsh was using the Jay as a lure to trap birds of prey. It is not permitted under general licence to use a Jay as a decoy within a Larsen trap. [As a point of interest, since January 1st 2014 it is now no longer permitted in Scotland to use a Jay as a decoy inside a crow cage trap either, so if you see one, you should report it immediately].

Marsh, 49, of Middle Ballewan near Blanefield, Stirling, was reported to the Procurator Fiscal by the SSPCA for a number of alleged offences including:

1. Section 5(1)(b) of The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (Use of an unlawful trap);

2. Section 19 2(a)(b) Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Act 2006 (Causing suffering to a Tawny Owl and a Jay);

3. Section 24 3(a)(b)(c)(e) Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Act 2006 (Failure to ensure the welfare of a Tawny Owl and Jay);

4. Section 1(1)(a) of The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (Unlawfully taking a Tawny Owl);

5. Section 1(1)(a) of The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (Unlawfully taking a Jay);

6. Section 1(2)(a) of The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (Unlawfully possessing a Tawny Owl);

7. Section 1(2)(a) of The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (Unlawfully possessing a Jay).

In defence, Marsh admitted to having set the trap [lawfully] some weeks prior to its discovery in order to catch a Carrion Crow which he intended to use as a decoy. He argued that the trap had been moved up hill and reset in the location where it was found and despite searching he had been unable to find it. He claimed the Jay may have squeezed into the trap decoy compartment by itself and attracted the Tawny Owl which had become trapped. He was unable to explain why the Jay, having squeezed into the trap, would not have been able to get back out.

The verdict of ‘not proven’ is an interesting one. In Scottish law, there are three possible outcomes to a criminal trial. These are ‘Guilty’ [a conviction], ‘Not Guilty’ [an acquittal] and ‘Not Proven’ [an aquittal]. Wikipedia offers an explanation for the use of ‘not proven’:

The modern perception of the ‘not proven’ verdict is an acquittal when the judge or jury does not have enough evidence to convict but is not sufficiently convinced of the accused person’s innocence to bring in a ‘not guilty’ verdict. Essentially, the judge or jury is unconvinced that the suspect is innocent, but has insufficient evidence to the contrary. In popular parlance, this verdict is sometimes jokingly referred to as ‘not guilty and don’t do it again’.

Out of the country, the ‘not proven’ verdict may be referred to as the ‘Scottish verdict’, and in Scotland itself it may be referred to colloquially as the ‘bastard verdict’, which was a term coined by Sir Walter Scott, who was sheriff in the court of Selkirk“.

Despite the ‘not proven’ verdict, well done to the SSPCA for taking on the case. It is widely recognised that this type of investigation requires specialist knowledge, especially with the continuing difficulties of proving who has set a trap (or laid out a poisoned bait, chopped down a nest tree, stamped on eggs or young birds, shot a bird etc etc) and the SSPCA and the Fiscal did well to bring this case to court.

The Tawny Owl survived and was eventually released following extensive veterinary care.

For previous blogs on this case see here and here

SGA donor owns estate ‘among the worst in Scotland for wildlife crime’

SGA donors 2014 EdradynateThe Scottish Gamekeepers’ Association publishes a quarterly magazine for its members. The latest edition (winter/spring 2014) includes a list of recent donors. We were intrigued to see the following entry:

MDCC Campbell Edradynate Estate (Donation: £1720)

Could this be Michael David Colin Craven Campbell, who resides in Hampshire but owns Edradynate Estate? So why would this entry be intriguing? Why wouldn’t they accept funding from Mr Campbell, who was awarded an MBE in 2008 for services to charity, was appointed by the Queen to become High Sheriff of Hampshire 2008-2009 and has an entry in Debretts? No reason whatsoever to reject a generous donation from such an upstanding and distinguished gentleman whose Debrett’s entry lists ‘shooting’ and ‘escaping to Scotland’ amongst his recreational activities. Right?

Edradynate Estate near Aberfeldy in Perthshire was described in 2004 by the then RSPB Investigations Officer Dave Dick as being “among the worst in Scotland for wildlife crime” (see here).

In January 2005, the then Police Wildlife Crime officer for Tayside Police, Alan Stewart, described Edradynate Estate as follows:

Edradynate Estate, which is owned by an absentee landlord from Hampshire, has probably the worst record in Scotland for poisoning incidents, going back more than a decade. In 14 separate incidents since 1998, 16 poisoned victims (9 buzzards, 1 cat, 1 tawny owl, 2 sparrowhawks, 1 common gull, 1 polecat and 1 carrion crow) and 12 poisoned baits (rabbits, wood pigeons and a pheasant) have been found, with traces of the pesticides Mevinphos, Carbofuran and Alphachloralose” (see here, page 3).

These two prominent wildlife crime investigators were commenting following the collapse of a case against two gamekeepers from Edradynate Estate. In 2002, the Head gamekeeper and an under keeper had been charged with nine offences relating to the alleged use of poisoned baits and bird cruelty, including the use of spring traps. These charges followed a police raid on Edradynate Estate where three rabbit baits, a dead buzzard and a dead crow had been found. Lab tests detected Carbofuran and Alphachloralose. A game bag and a knife seized during the search showed traces of these poisons when swabbed.

On 22 July 2004, two years after the original arrests and 13 court hearings later, the Fiscal dropped the case following a series of adjournments called by both the defence and the prosecution. A Crown Office spokeswoman admitted that the time taken to prepare the case for trial had been a major factor in the decision to drop the case.

The 2002 raid was the second police search on Edradynate Estate. In Alan Stewart’s book, Wildlife Detective, he writes the following:

This would be our second major search of the estate under warrant and we hoped this time to find sufficient evidence to bring to an end the catalogue of poisoned baits and victims that had turned up on the estate with the worst record by far not just in Tayside but in Scotland”.

The crimes didn’t end there.

a dead red kiteIn July 2010 a poisoned red kite was discovered in the area (see here). According to Tayside Police, ‘five buzzards and a tawny owl met with the same fate in the same area in the last year’.

In September 2010, an un-named gamekeeper from Edradynate Estate, a self-proclaimed member of the SGA, talked to the Courier about the discovery of the poisoned red kite:

As a member of the Scottish Gamekeepers’ Association, I am against anything illegal. Anybody who does this should be jailed because it’s not on and I have never done anything like this in my life. To find a poisoned bird on my ground is just wrong because I don’t use poison and wouldn’t know how to.

There is something funny about this and I think someone else has killed this bird and planted it on my estate. Why they have done that, I don’t know. We have never seen a red kite, living or dead, in the Strathtay valley so I don’t know where this has come from. The laird is so upset about it, as am I, because it besmirches our reputation and it’s reflecting badly on me.

I am a professional person and I have worked hard for all these years on the estate and never had anything against my name. This is causing me a lot of stress and strain because I don’t know what is going to happen next. I’ve never been involved in anything like this before.

It’s very reassuring to know that I have the full support of the laird because this job is something I love doing.” (see here).

In March 2011 two poisoned buzzards and two poisoned crows were discovered, along with two poisoned pheasant baits. Carbofuran was detected this time. Tayside Police conducted another search (their third on this estate?) and it was reported that a 62 year old man was taken in for questioning but was released pending further enquiries (see here). We’re not aware of any other media statements about this incident.

In September 2013, the Crown deserted a case against Edradynate Estate’s Head gamekeeper on alleged firearms and explosives charges. The reason for this desertion was not made public (see here).

Nobody has ever been convicted for any of the alleged offences on Edradynate Estate.

Alan Stewart wrote about a 1995 incident on Edradynate Estate in his Wildlife Detective book, concerning the discovery of a poisoned cat belonging to the occupier of a cottage on Edradynate Estate. A search in a nearby wood had recovered a poisoned pheasant bait and a poisoned tawny owl – later all found to contain traces of Mevinphos. A further search had recovered two wood pigeon baits and a poisoned sparrowhawk, all found inside a pheasant pen. They all contained traces of Mevinphos. Stewart wrote:

I visited a number of residents on the estate and was absolutely shocked at what I learned. According to the interviews I carried out, my suspect had, at various times, set up a gun with a string attached to the trigger to pepper with wheat any intruder who brushed against the string. He had allegedly driven into Perth to the workplace of a person who lived on the estate, to remonstrate with him after a pheasant had been knocked down and killed by the person’s car. He had allegedly poisoned a tenant farmer’s collie, and also shot dead the dog of a visitor to a neighbouring estate after the dog had run off and was being pursued by its owner. I was taken aback by the vitriol these people had for my suspect but their hatred was tempered with fear and all interviews were ‘strictly off the record’. All those I spoke to were in tied houses and none wanted to become involved in a prosecution. News of my investigation had travelled fast and out of the blue I received a telephone call from a former factor for the estate. He had anticipated the reluctance of those who could potentially help, wished me the best of luck, but doubted that my enquiry would ever result in court proceedings”.

A prosecution in this case was attempted but the case was deserted after it became time-barred due to a lack of available evidence to link the individual suspect to the alleged offences.

Alan Stewart wrote:

The following week [just after the case had been deserted] I learned that another employee had borrowed the suspect’s Land Rover but it had broken down. In his search for tools to repair it, he had lifted up the passenger seat to search the compartment underneath as the most likely place for tools to be stored. Instead of tools there were three dead sparrowhawks. I am sure this would have clinched the case but naturally the employee wanted to keep his job and his house and the information came to me via a third party”.

Stewart wrote about another incident in 2001 – the discovery of a poisoned buzzard on the estate that had been killed by Carbofuran:

The usual enquiries were made and the usual suspect interviewed, but his involvement could not be established……..In the investigations on Edradynate Estate, we could prove beyond reasonable doubt that baits and dead birds and animals were being found with monotonous regularity on the estate. We could prove beyond reasonable doubt that the baits were laced with particular pesticides and that the victims had been poisoned after having consumed part of these baits. What we were so far unable to prove was who set the baits”.

Case against Stody Estate gamekeeper Allen Lambert: part 4

scales of justiceThe case against Allen Lambert, a gamekeeper on the award-winning Stody Estate, continued in February and is now set to go to trial.

Lambert, 64, of Old Lodge House, Stody, Melton Constable in Norfolk has already pleaded guilty to storing the pesticides Mevinphos and Aldicarb, but has denied a series of further charges concerning the alleged killing and possession of 14 buzzards, 1 sparrowhawk and 1 tawny owl.

His trial will take place in May.

For previous blogs on this case see here, here and here.

Gamekeeper accused of pole-trapping on Lloyd Webber’s estate

scales of justiceIt has been reported that a gamekeeper is appearing in court tomorrow to face various charges of alleged wildlife crime on Andrew Lloyd Webber’s country estate.

There is no suggestion Andrew Lloyd Webber was involved.

Mark Stevens, 42, is accused of five alleged offences. Three relate to allegations that a tawny owl was caught in a spring trap set on a pole on the Sydmonton Court Estate, Hampshire in August 2013. Two relate to allegations that spring traps were not properly set on the Sydmonton Court Estate in September 2013.

Tomorrow’s hearing will be the first in this case.

Further updates later…