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Last Updated: Monday, 16 June, 2003, 17:47 GMT 18:47 UK
Carcasses 'littered forest floor'
A dead pheasant injected with poison
Dead pheasants were injected with poison and left as bait
A gamekeeper who poisoned predators which threatened pheasants being reared for shooting has been warned he could face jail.

Police say they found the carcasses of wildlife "littering the forest floor" when they raided an estate near Tiverton in Devon.

Alan Hetherington was told by Exeter magistrates that some of the offences for which he appeared were too serious for a financial penalty.

Hetherington, 32, from Creacombe Bungalow, Rackenford, Tiverton, admitted a total of 11 offences.

They included storing pesticides without keeping records, failing to protect the health of humans, creatures and plants, and placing poison in the wild.

Prosecutor Tony Creech told the court Hetherington worked for a commercial shoot at Oakford.

There were dead badgers lying, foxes dead and decaying, just the most awful smell - the forest itself was totally lifeless
Roy Adams, Devon and Cornwall Police wildlife officer

The dead birds and animals were found after the police, RSPB, RSPCA and Defra sent officials to land at Meadowview and Higher Barns last September.

They found lots of bottles containing poisons, some of which had been recently outlawed.

They also found an underground store of chemicals - and seized syringes used to inject dead pheasants.

The birds were then laid out specifically to target predators like buzzards, badgers and foxes.

The prosecutor said all the pesticides had a direct effect on wildlife, and birds of prey were "particularly targeted."

Alan Hetherington
Alan Hetherington admitted to 11 offences
Defence solicitor Tim Hughes said Hetherington accepted he was responsible for two pheasant poults which had been killed and poisoned.

The shoot reared 20,000 pheasants and each bird shot commercially earned the shoot 35, he told the court.

The estimated loss to birds of prey was 20 poults per day, said Mr Hughes.

He said Hetherington "committed these offences to assist his employer."

Speaking after the hearing, Devon and Cornwall Police wildlife officer for Exeter, Roy Adams, said that when he went through a small woodland at the shoot he detected "the awful smell of death and decay."

'Eerie experience'

"There were badgers lying dead, foxes dead and decaying, just the most awful smell," he said.

"There was also the smell of poisons.

"The forest itself was totally lifeless. It was an eerie experience."

He said carcasses were "littered over the forest floor".

"Nobody has the right to treat the countryside in such a reckless manner," he said.

Hetherington will appear before the court again on 15 July for sentencing.

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