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Gamekeeper avoids prison after wildlife crime spree

Alan Wilson, 61, was snared following a multi-agency operation in the Scottish Borders.

Carcass: Dead animals were found throughout the estate.
Carcass: Dead animals were found throughout the estate. Crown Office

A gamekeeper who illegally killed wild birds, badgers and an otter in the Borders has avoided jail.

Alan Wilson, 61, was snared following a multi-agency operation after the carcass of a goshawk was found hidden near a trap in Henlaw Wood in May 2017.

The RSPB took the remains to a veterinary pathologist who established that the bird had been shot.

Police Scotland and the Scottish SPCA were brought in when the carcasses of a badger and other dead birds were recovered following further investigation of the wood.

A number of snares registered to Wilson and a trap, known as a Swedish Goshawk Trap which is designed to catch raptors, were seized.

A search warrant was obtained in June 2017 after radiographs showed shotgun pellets in goshawk and buzzard carcasses.

Discovered: An eagle owl is used to attract raptors.
Discovered: An eagle owl is used to attract raptors. Crown Office

In the course of the search of Wilson's home, police officers assisted by Scottish SPCA inspectors found a number of shotguns, rifles and snares.

They also recovered an electronic bird caller, decoys, and an eagle owl, which is used to attract raptors.

Wilson was also found to be in possession of a highly toxic and illegal pesticide.

A simultaneous search was carried out at Henlaw Wood where the remains of a dead buzzard, two badgers and an otter were found along with a cage and 27 snares, of which 23 were illegally set.

Investigation: Shotgun pellets were visible in many of the x-ray examinations.
Investigation: Shotgun pellets were visible in many of the x-ray examinations. Crown Office

Shotgun pellets were visible in the x-ray examination of the remains of the otter, buzzard and badgers.

In July this year at Jedburgh Sheriff Court, Wilson pleaded guilty to nine charges - including killing two goshawks, three common buzzards, three badgers, and an otter.

Other charges involved the setting of illegal snares, possessing illegal pesticides, as well as devices designed to catch raptors along with a number of shotguns and rifles.

Killed: All of the offences took place between 2016 and 2017.
Killed: All of the offences took place between 2016 and 2017. Crown Office

All of the offences took place between March 2016 and June 2017 on the Longformacus Estate, Duns.

The estate manages land for game bird shooting.

On Monday, Wilson was tagged for ten months and sentenced to a Community Payback Order with 225 hours of unpaid work.

Sara Shaw, head of Wildlife and Environmental Crime Unit, said: "Alan Wilson's actions amount to a campaign of deliberate criminality involving the illegal killing of a number of protected species.

"He has shown an utter disregard for wildlife laws which serve to protect these species.

"I would like to thank Police Scotland, the Scottish SPCA and RSPB Scotland for their part in investigating and gathering evidence of these abhorrent offences.

"The Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) will continue to prosecute such cases where appropriate to ensure that offenders are brought to justice."

Trap: More than 20 snares were illegally set.
Trap: More than 20 snares were illegally set. Crown Office

Detective constable Andy Loughlin, who led the police inquiry, said: "This has been a complex inquiry that has amounted to a large-scale police investigation spanning the past couple of years.

"We have worked with experts in the field to secure Wilson's conviction and I would like to thank our colleagues from the Scottish SPCA, RSPB Scotland, veterinary pathologists at the Scottish Agricultural College, government specialists at SASA, and independent experts, for all their assistance."

'We will never know the total number of animals which perished due to Mr Wilson, though had it not been for the robust intervention of Police Scotland, the Scottish SPCA and our other partner agencies, many more would have suffered and perished,'
Undercover Scottish SPCA investigator

Commenting on the case, an undercover Scottish SPCA investigator said: "This is a despicable case of serious and systematic crimes to indiscriminately remove wildlife from an estate.

"The sheer volume of dead wildlife discovered is truly shocking.

"Some of the equipment in Mr Wilson's possession has been unlawful for decades yet it was evident it had been recently used to trap wild animals.

"The illegally-set snares across the estate he was managing would have trapped wild animals indiscriminately and the remains discovered were proof of that. This amounted to large-scale eradication of wildlife.

"We will never know the total number of animals which perished due to Mr Wilson, though had it not been for the robust intervention of Police Scotland, the Scottish SPCA and our other partner agencies, many more would have suffered and perished."

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