A golden eagle; three dead birds were found on the Skibo estate. Photo: Maurice Koope CC-BY-ND-2.0

A golden eagle; three dead birds were found on the Skibo estate. Photo: Maurice Koope CC-BY-ND-2.0

A manager on a Highland estate today pleaded guilty to possessing enough illegal pesticide to kill every bird of prey in Britain.

Dean Barr, sporting manager on the Skibo Estate in Sutherland, was fined £3,300 at Inverness Sheriff Court after he admitted possession of the largest ever amount of carbofuran discovered.

Three dead golden eagles were found on the estate, north-west of Dornoch last year and officers discovered the banned pesticide during searches in connection with the deaths.

No-one has yet been charged with their killing.

Former Ulster Defence Regiment officer Barr last year blamed the deaths on the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds which, he said, benefited from the publicity.

The RSPB called Barr’s claims ‘ridiculous’.

Northern Constabulary’s wildlife crime co-ordinator, Chief Inspector Matthew Reiss, said: “The force notes the sentence handed out today to Dean Barr for the possession of the largest ever recovered amount of the banned pesticide Carbofuran.

“Experts say that the amount of poison our officers uncovered would have been enough to kill every bird of prey in the UK.

“The poison was discovered within premises operated and solely accessed by Mr Barr on Skibo estate land. It was found in the course of an investigation launched after the discovery of dead birds of prey, believed to have been illegally killed on the estate, including three golden eagles and a sparrowhawk and a grouse laced with carbofuran, which was pinned to the ground by a metal spike.

“Undoubtedly this was a prepared piece of bait. No-one has been convicted of these offences.

“This was an extensive and detailed inquiry and highlights Northern Constabulary’s commitment to tackling crimes against wildlife, which the force treats extremely seriously.

The spokesman added: “Our investigation into the deaths of these birds remains open. There is no excuse for the illegal killing of some of our most iconic species.

“We will continue to deal robustly with anyone who is found to have been involved in the illegal persecution of any protected species.”

Anyone with information is asked to contact police or call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

The Skibo estate is a favoured haunt of the rich and famous. Madonna and Guy Ritchie married at the estate in 2000.

Other celebrity visitors have included Prince Andrew, former US presidents George Bush and Bill Clinton, Microsoft billionaire Bill Gates and former boy-band member Robbie Williams.

Another gamekeeper was today fined £1,500 after pleading guilty to the possession of a dead red kite found in his vehicle during a police wildlife-crime operation in the Highlands.

James Rolfe received the fine for having the protected species in his vehicle when it was searched at Moy, near Inverness in June last year.

Ch Insp Reiss said: “This type of crime is treated extremely seriously by the force.”

He added: “We will continue to carry out these types of operation and would appeal to anyone with information about wildlife crime to contact their nearest police station or call Crimestoppers.

“The Highlands and Islands attract large numbers of visitors every year and many arrive hoping to see some of the most iconic species in the United Kingdom, such as red kites and golden eagles. The persecution of these magnificent species is illegal, unacceptable and has an unwelcome and negative impact both on the natural environment and local economy.”

  • Police are also appealing for information after a dead buzzard was found on a hill near Grantown on Spey.

A Northern Constabulary spokesperson said: “The bird was subsequently examined at Science and Advice for Scottish Agriculture laboratories and was found to have been poisoned by the banned pesticides carbofuran and aldicarb.

“Hillwalkers are being urged to be careful whilst exercising pets or children in the area as these pesticides could cause death if ingested.

“The public should be particularly wary of any animal baits with dead insects on them. They should not touch any suspect items, but should immediately contact the local police.”

Anyone with any information on this or similar incidents is asked to contact Northern Constabulary on 01463 715555.

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