Not for the first time, the Queen’s Sandringham Estate in Norfolk has been at the centre of a police investigation in relation to a raptor incident.
According to an article in today’s Mail on Sunday (here) a police investigation was launched after Sandringham Estate staff mailed a young goshawk’s tracking tag back to the BTO on 11 August last year, but without the corpse. When the BTO contacted Sandringham Estate to ask what had happened to the bird, they were told the bird had been ‘disposed of’ because ‘it had been dead for a long time’ and was ‘decomposing’. However, the GPS tag data revealed the bird had still been alive on the evening of 8th August, in some trees close to Sandringham House.
During the Police investigation, Sandringham Estate staff changed their story and said the goshawk had been found alive by a gardener beside a perimeter fence but that ‘it was in a poor condition and quickly died’. They told Police the bird had been incinerated.
Estate staff justified these contrasting stories about what had happened by saying there had been ‘a breakdown in communication’ amongst Estate staff.
Norfolk Police issued a statement: “A thorough investigation was carried out and no wrong doing was identified“.
Norfolk Police also told the BTO: ‘There were no suspicious circumstances surrounding the bird’s death‘.
Hmm. Perhaps they’d turned up with a white stick and a dog.
Without having this goshawk’s corpse available for post-mortem it is impossible to determine how it died, so it’s no surprise that Norfolk Police said ‘no wrong doing was identified’. Of course no wrong doing was identified because any potential evidence had been conveniently incinerated!
Sandringham Estate was at the centre of a police investigation in 2005 when a tawny owl was caught in an illegally-set trap. A Sandringham Estate gamekeeper was convicted and fined, but wasn’t sacked (see here, pages 3-4).
In 2007 Sandringham Estate was at the centre of another police investigation after the alleged shooting of two hen harriers. Prince Harry, his friend William van Cutsem (whose family own the now infamous Mossdale Estate), and an unnamed gamekeeper were questioned but denied all knowledge of the incident. The hen harrier corpses were never found.
In 2014, a satellite-tagged Montagu’s harrier called Mo ‘disappeared’ on land next door to Sandringham Estate and police launched an investigation. Mo’s corpse has never been found.
Photo of a young Norfolk goshawk with its GPS tag, part of the Heritage Lottery funded BTO goshawk tracking study (photographer unknown).