Farm manager convicted of poison possession


A farm manager has today [7th September 2012] been convicted of possessing an illegal poison, following a police-led enquiry into the death of a Golden Eagle. Earlier at Oban Sheriff Court, Tom McKellar pled guilty to possession of the banned pesticide carbofuran and was fined £1200. On 7th June 2009, a party of hillwalkers descending Beinn Udlaidh in northern Argyllshire came across the body of the eagle, lying face down in the grass on a remote hillside near Bridge of Orchy. The following day, the group contacted RSPB Scotland, who immediately notified Strathclyde Police. That afternoon, the local police wildlife crime officer and RSPB Scotland investigations staff recovered the eagle carcass from the remote hillside.

It was photographed and seized as evidence by the police; meanwhile a post mortem by Scottish Government laboratories confirmed that the bird had been poisoned with carbofuran, a substance banned since 2001. Further police investigations, including a search of land and buildings at Auch Estate, Bridge of Orchy, recovered a quantity of carbofuran, a carbofuran-poisoned dead Red Fox, and two handguns — found in the attic of a house occupied by estate employee Tom McKellar. In subsequent days, the carcass of a sheep, laced with carbofuran, was also found on a hillside in the area where the eagle had been found dead.

Golden Eagle, Bridge of Orchy (RSPB Scotland).

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In December 2010, at the High Court in Glasgow, McKellar was convicted of possession of two handguns, and was sentenced to 300 hours community service.

Commenting on today's sentencing Ian Thomson, RSPB Scotland's Head of Investigations, said: "RSPB Scotland has invested considerable resources in assisting Strathclyde Police in the investigation of this significant case. We heartily commend the efforts of the police in their rigorous follow-up to the illegal poisoning of the Golden Eagle on Beinn Udlaidh, leading to this successful prosecution. We are very disappointed that, at the conclusion of the investigation, no-one has been charged with the poisoning of this Golden Eagle, one of our most vulnerable and iconic bird species, or with the laying out of poison baits in the open in our countryside. Whilst we welcome the conviction, yet again, we are dismayed that the final result of a high-profile enquiry poses little in the way of a deterrent to those who continue to flagrantly disregard our wildlife protection laws. The illegal killing of protected birds of prey remains a persistent problem in some parts of Scotland, with, for example, six further Golden Eagles confirmed as illegally poisoned since this incident, including one in Lochaber earlier this year. We call upon the Scottish Government to urgently review the penalties imposed by the courts on those who break our wildlife laws."

Written by: RSPB