Gamekeeper from Scunthorpe found guilty of using illegal poison to kill wild buzzards
A gamekeeper who used pheasants laced with an illegal poison to kill two wild buzzards has been fined £1,950.
The bodies of the two birds were found on land at Bonsall Lane, in Blyton, near Gainsborough, on September 1 2011.
The land is used for pheasant shooting and Robert William Hebblewhite, 72, from Appleby in Scunthorpe, is the self-appointed gamekeeper.
The buzzards' remains were tested, along with the bodies of a number of dead pheasants found next to them, and came back positive for the banned poison carbofuran.
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Mr Hebblewhite's red van was seen leaving the area on several occasions where the birds' remains were found.
A search warrant was carried out at Mr Hebblewhite's home under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and officers found a jar of the poison in the back of his van.
At a hearing on October 15, Mr Hebblewhite pleaded guilty to possessing carbofuran but denied using it to kill the buzzards.
But at Lincoln Magistrates Court this afternoon, prosecutor Mark Holmes said: "He is the volunteer gamekeeper for the shoot and has responsibilities particularly for pest control. And buzzards eat pheasants.
"What's happened is someone has laced a pheasant with carbofuran, a banned poison, and the buzzards have eaten it.
"The shoot has been losing birds because there are buzzards in the area. He has a clear motive.
"His van has been seen going to the scene on several occasions. A rare illegal substance has been found in his van. The only possible person it could be is the defendant."
District Judge John Stobard found Mr Hebblewhite guilty of both charges and said: "The birds died from carbofuran and here in a van is the very stuff that killed them.
"The defence says it could have been anyone. Well, could it? I'm not here to discuss the case as a philosophical argument. What is the reality of the matter?
"This defendant is here to secure the presence of the shoots that take place by the way of being a gamekeeper.
"He must look after the pheasants and protect them from other animals.
"I think he has done so in an old fashioned and particularly nasty way by lacing the pheasant with carbofuran in the full knowledge the buzzards would be killed.
"It can only point to one conclusion - he did it."
He added that if he had any previous history of using a poison to kill wild birds, then he would have made an example and sentenced him to prison.
"It may well be that you're an old fashioned gamekeeper but there's no room for old fashioned when everyone is interested in the habitats of native and foreign birds," he said.
"There's no jumping the queue because game birds are reared to provide the reason for hunting with guns.
"It's unfortunate that two buzzards have died but it's fortunate no other creature came across the laced pheasants."