Page last updated at 15:51 GMT, Tuesday, 1 April 2008 16:51 UK

'Aladdin's cave' egg thief jailed

The prosecution described Pearson's home as an Aladdin's cave of eggs

A professional egg thief who illegally collected more than 7,000 birds' eggs has been jailed for 23 weeks.

Richard Pearson, 41, of Phelps Place, Cleethorpes, Lincolnshire, had eggs from many rare birds such as golden eagles, peregrine falcons and ospreys.

At Skegness Magistrates' Court Pearson admitted five charges of illegally stealing and possessing the eggs - one of the largest hauls ever recovered.

The prosecution likened his collection of illegal eggs to "Aladdin's cave".

In addition to the jail sentence, Pearson was ordered to pay costs of 1,500.

Pearson had admitted stealing five chough eggs and three peregrine falcon eggs from Pen y Parc in Anglesey in April 2005.

He also admitted stealing four barn owl eggs from a site near Saltfleet, Lincolnshire, in the same month.

Richard Pearson
Pearson's home contained 7,130 eggs when raided by police

Some of the rarest eggs included those of a red-necked phalarope and a Montagu's harrier.

There are about 30 red-necked phalaropes living in the UK. The Montagu's harrier is just as rare.

Pearson pleaded not guilty to charges relating to the possession of 21 dead birds and egg collecting paraphernalia that was found at his home.

Prosecuting counsel David Outterside said: "Mr Pearson has in effect admitted to being a professional birds' egg thief who operated at the highest end of one of Britain's most destructive natural pastimes.

"His house was an Aladdin's Cave, full of illegal birds' eggs. Officers found both eggs and birds protected by the Countryside Act."

RSPB Investigations Officer Mark Thomas said: "His actions show a selfish disregard for nature, denying the rest of us the joy of seeing these wonderful creatures in the wild so he could amass this macabre collection for his own perverse satisfaction."

When police officers and inspectors from the RSPB raided his home they discovered 7,130 eggs, 653 of which were from the most protected species in the UK.

Officers also found dozens of data cards and diaries, detailing where and when he had found the eggs.

They also seized items including a rubber dinghy, waders, climbing spikes, syringes, cameras and satellite navigation systems.

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