The 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.
In 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”.