Forest of Bowland arrests in shooting estate clampdown

Hawthornthwaite Fell, Abbeystead-1

Hawthornthwaite Fell, Abbeystead Estate where nesting peregrines have disappeared with regularity

Four people have been arrested as part of an on-going investigation into the damage caused at two sporting estates in the Lancaster area.During the last two months, the Bleasdale and Abbeystead Estates have reported damage caused to equipment used legitimately and lawfully as part of the management of the estates. Items including snares, traps and a Trail Camera have also been reported stolen.

Raptor Politics learned several weeks ago that a high level meeting had been convened at Police Headquarters at Hutton nr Preston, and was attended by representatives from BASC and at least one estates representative at which the ongoing crimes were discussed. The issue of damage caused to traps set legitimately, the disappearance of surveillance cameras and poaching were items on the agenda. We learned the police agreed to mount increased daily patrols throughout the western part of the Forest of Bowland in a concerted effort to catch those responsible for the damage being caused. We understand a proposal provided by Lancashire’s ex Wildlife Crime Officer Duncan Thomas, now employed as BASC’s north west regional officer,  recommended estates should install strategically sighted surveillance cameras; this was accepted by the Abbeystead and Bleasdale estates.


Meanwhile the on-going investigation to identify and bring to justice the criminal responsible for killing the two fledged hen harriers last year  (Sky and Hope), and the five missing male hen harriers that disappeared from 3 nests this year seems to have run out of steam with no developments or arrests.

A 16-year-old girl, 20-year-old woman, 18-year-old man and a 45-year-old man all from Leyland have been arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to commit criminal damage and theft, presumably damage caused to legally set snares and traps.

All have been released on police bail until November 2 pending further enquiries.

PC Andrew Massingham of the Lancaster Neighbourhood Policing Team and Wildlife Officer said: “These arrests come as part of an on-going investigation following a number of incidents which have interfered with the management of the estates affected. This week also marks the start of the grouse shooting season throughout the UK.”

The Bleasdale Estate is situated 20 minutes south of Lancaster. In recent years the estate lost at least 2 pairs of breeding peregrines;  a peregrine nest discovered on the estate in June containing 3 eggs was found to be empty one day later. No investigation about this then?

The Duke of Westminster owns the 18,000 acre Abbeystead estate near Lancaster. The estate once hosted up to seven nesting pairs of peregrines, today there are no occupied peregrine or hen harrier territories anywhere on this estate.

14 comments to Forest of Bowland arrests in shooting estate clampdown

  • John Miles

    I have always said that you can not have wildlife police officers one minute working against the estates due to killing raptors and next minute working with them to try and catch poachers or in this case, damaging traps. This case shows which side the police are really on!!!

  • skydancer

    This case just demonstrates the influence the estates can bring to bear when it comes to using public money i.e.,police resources, to protect their interests, but when it comes to protecting birds of prey on shooting estates very little is done i.e., finding those responsible for killing the 7 hen harrier which all disappeared from the Forest of Bowland. If it wasn’t a gamekeeper the only other people brave enough to carry guns on grouse moors are poachers, but then the police would soon arrest a poacher.

  • Northern Diver

    Sorry Carole we are unable to post your comment, please come back and rewrite it in a general way.

    Wonder what his hobby is and who his friends are??!!

    • Northern Diver

      Would love to re-write but not sure how to, in order to remain legal. Wished to get the message across about local police’s off-duty hobbies and friends. The twitter account is in the public domain & was found by just a quick search on a name which is also public knowledge. Can you tell me what I could comment on then?

      Editor’s Comment. Very difficult question for us to answer. Like most rational people we are all feeling totally frustrated at what has been allowed to take place throughout the Forest of Bowland. The only credit we feel goes to the members of the North West Raptor Group who have shouted the truth from the hill tops for many many years. What happened for telling the truth, they had their permits allowing them to monitor peregrine and hen harriers in Bowland removed by Natural England, now their are only a single pair of each species left to monitor. On top of this misjustice, a NWRG member had his vehicle almost destroyed after a gamekeeper kicked in the sides of his vehicle using a boot fitted with metal studs on the soles. This was then followed by a malicious and untruthful allegation that the same group member had attempted to run a gamekeeper down with his vehicle, a charge of manslaughter had he succeeded at the very least. Still more to come, then there was an attempt by 2 officers to illegally seize the vehicle of a member of the group for simply driving with due diligence and care at 20mph along a public road; the problem was that road was in the Forest of Bowland. Following the intervention of the group members solicitor, a full and unequivocal apology was received from the police and the allegation withdrawn.

      Reading the above we are sure people will now begin to understand the politics which are at play in the Forest of Bowland; what can anyone do, very little but continue to tell the truth and by making the facts public on web blogs like ours. There are one or two very unsavoury individuals with power out there who care little about birds of prey or those that do their best to protect them.

      Please keep sending in your views and comment, this is important. Editor

  • kevin moore

    Isnt it amazing how arrests can be made so quickly of individuals, including children, suspected of causing damage to traps on moorland used to shoot red grouse. The damage to crow traps, which are essentially bits of timber and wire, no great cost to anyone, and placed on the moors to kill wildlife, is this really serious crime worth spending thousands of taxpayers money to resolve compared to mugging, housebreaking,robbery,car theft and assault, but killing hen harriers and peregrines on grouse moors takes second stage because resolving such crimes is not in the best interests of the estates.

    When two young Hen Harriers each carrying expensive satellite receivers mysteriously disappear on the same grouse moors there are no arrests. At the exact time of the disappearance of sky and hope which will be known to those responsible for tracking these birds, how many people could have been in the vicinity with a loaded gun? None I would say, I wonder has the PC investigating this most terrible of crimes damaging animal traps has bothered to consider this point?

  • Brian Leecy

    Surely not ,it couldn’t be could it ! ONE LAW FOR SOME AND ONE LAW FOR OTHERS !!! I just wonder how swift the Police response was to all those MISSING PEREGRINES !!! One Positive to take from this though it looks like Someone’s Getting a Bit Rattled !!! Brian Leecy

    Editor’s Comment. If these crimes had been carried out in the 18th century these people would have been either hanged at the gibbet or transported to Australia. We have to ask, do the estates have their own police force to investigate and act on their behalf protecting them from such terrible crimes at the expense of the taxpayer? Perhaps we should all call on the bobby to come round and patrol our streets where crime is much more prevalent?

  • Paul Tresto

    I hope the Police are putting the same resources, and hopefully a lot more, into investigating and charging the Hen Harrier and Peregrine persecutors in Bowland. Or do the Grouse Moor Estates, BASC and the ex Wildlife Officer decide what is investigated, what is not and how resources are used? I hope not but this all looks very suspect!

  • Julie Wright

    Of course it’s suspect, how can you have a wildlife crime officer turn and go and work for BASC. Did he know where all the nests were? The person or persons responsible for illegally killing birds of prey won’t be caught, they are just following orders from high high above & won’t risk losing their jobs. We know they are doing it and they know we know, and unless someone has got the balls to spill all they will just keep on until the only living creature in Bowland are Red Grouse. Although I would like to point out that Grouse Shooting is so not in at the moment, it went out of fashion when Victoria died. maybe the owners could consider a wildlife reserve which would make them more money than grouse shooting,boosting tourism, jobs and most importantly profit for the owners. The game keepers have experience and could do guided tours, build some hides, cottages, restaurants. Think of the money the greedy sods could earn because if the Hen Harrier, Peregrine & Eagle Owl were there in number, the plant and insect life would come back & so would the bloody waders, they don’t understand the Ecosystem and predator prey relationship. Think how many of us would be visiting these moors, what a joy it would be to see some life on it & not just meadow pipits & grouse.

    • Alison Warburton

      Couldn’t agree with you more, Julie. I don’t think these people realise how lucrative wildlife tourism actually is these days. Look at places such as Mull, where people work in harmony with their environment and also make a living from it and are proud of the wildlife on their island. Another example of this is the fishing lake near Loch Garten – the ospreys which go there each year take fish from the lake but the owners happily tolerate this and have even built a hide which they charge photographers to use. Win, win all round. The wildlife was here long before any of us – give it a chance, because once it’s gone it’s not coming back. What’s that famous saying – you don’t miss it until it’s gone!

  • Northern Diver

    PC Andrew Massingham – Wildlife Crime Officer, Lancs Police “Part time manufacturer of custom built firearms for long range Target disciplines, Deer Management, Tactical Competition and Vermin Control. Manufacturer of Custom Ammunition, Load Development and specialist ammunition. Service is not advertised.” From his Linkedin account. Not surprising he doesn’t advertise the service.

    PC Carl Chew – Wildlife Crime Officer, Lancs Police. From his twitter site, he is a shooter (wallpaper – black labs etc) retweeting Duncan Thomas (ex-police Wildlife Crime Officer, now BASC )

    Mark Thomas – civilian attached to Wildlife Crime Unit in 2011. Farming and Gamekeeping background. Wonder if he is a relative of Duncan??

    This is all I’ve found so far but only started looking on the internet after talking to the 2 policemen who turned up at Hen Harrier Day last week at Dunsop Bridge. The only prosecutions will be like the one above and poaching.

    Editor’s Comment. As it appears all the above information is already in the public domain we have no issue with printing your comment. We also feel the public who follow Raptor Politics, and many that do not, would be interested in what you have written.

    • skydancer

      When Sky and Hope disappeared last September, the two satellite tags attached to the backs of both birds would have identified the precise location where both transmitters went off line; the time and date would also have been recorded. For arguments sake let’s assume both harrier were shot and their tags then destroyed. In any investigation to determine the facts of what happened in the two remote moorland locations, the police would have attempted to discover the whereabouts of their most likely suspects at the time the two transmitters stopped working. It makes perfect sense therefore to interview each of the two moorland estate gamekeepers who work in these two separate areas on an almost daily basis. Did the police interview both keepers asking them to divulge where they were at the time the transmitters went off line, and is so were they each eliminated from any further police enquiries? Its difficult to contemplate anyone else other than an estate employee walking on moorland with a firearm patrolled regularly by gamekeepers.

      • bubo bubo

        For these transmitters to disappear without trace means one of two things, the Hen Harriers have been abducted by aliens and taken back to their planet,that might explain the transmitter not working,or the more likely reason is that someone shot these birds and totally destroyed the transmitters so as to leave no trace of the crime.
        Now we have to ask how many people are allowed in the area with a loaded gun at the exact time of the disappearance of Sky and Hope? we all know the answer to that,unless there is someone else walking the Bowland Fells with a firearm which would be very alarming for us all that walk in the same area,surely the police have considered this point.

  • Dave Lane

    I worked with a young game keeper a few years ago when he took other work between jobs, out of curiosity I asked him what estate owners expected from keepers. He told me that the estate owners never give a direct order, but if the raptors aren’t gone, the keeper will be and looking for a new job. The land owners need to be punished, but with the current government being friends and probably former school pals with them it’s highly unlikely anything will change soon.

  • Hybrid

    The greedy, money obsessed landowners are at the top of the BOP slaughter ‘tree’. It’s obviously an unwritten, or unspoken, yet known rule for any game-keeper to ‘keep’ their game at any cost and regardless of breed, any BOP is seen as the enemy and must be slaughtered, even tracked purposely for this sad end.

    So occasionally, there is a conviction, usually ending up with some form of caution and a fine. Who covers the fine? Is this also an unspoken part of the problem, whereas the landowner just sorts it out and on they go, as if nothing had happened, perhaps slightly more cautious for a short time?

    And to think that your vehicle is not safe to park in a purpose made lay-by, as you simply ramble your chosen pathways, in the hope of seeing the ever decreasing BOP, such as the Peregrine, or the Hen Harrier… as shown on the Welcome to the Forest of Bowland signs, well that is disgraceful and hopefully someone will be caught in the act and imprisoned, as deserved.

    I am relatively new to watching over these fabulous areas, but feel as though I’d be extremely lucky to see anything of note, aside from stunning scenery.

    I don’t know if there could ever be a meeting between all the relevant parties, to try and come to some sort of sensible management programme, whereas BOP are left alone to live and breed, as is their right, if they had a voice.

    For goodness sake, how can you have an image of the Hen Harrier on the welcome signs, when they are killed off, in a variety of ways!

    As distressing as it can be to read, these crimes do need to be out there for all to see and I’d just like to thank all those behind the scenes for setting up Raptor Politics and for volunteering their time and expertise and enabling other like minded folk to air their views.

    You do a Tremendous job and your continued Sterling work is a credit to all of you.

    It is also great to read all the comments of others on here too!

    Keep it up guys!