Who are the Likely Lads?

Raptor Persecution UK lift the lid on a can of worms in two blogs today (here and here).

It’s all about the puzzling tale of Rowan who was ‘likely to have been shot’ (see RPUK blog of 7 November, and my own of  11 November) – and now we know, as if we didn’t before (huh!), that he was shot.

RPUK have forensically examined the corpse of Rowan’s memory through a series of FoI requests to Natural England. These reveal the following sequence of events:

  • 22 October Rowan found dead
  • 26 October post mortem establishes Rowan was shot
  • 27 October Cumbria police launch investigation
  • 28 October Hawk and Owl Trust and Natural England issue statement saying that Rowan is dead and the police are investigating but not that Rowan was shot
  • 31 October Westminster Hall debate on banning driven grouse shooting
  • 3 November Cumbria Police send  draft press statement to NE saying that Rowan was shot
  • 3 November NE staff pass the press statement up the management line for checking
  • 7 November NE and HOT still discussing the press release
  • 7 November press release goes out with the word ‘shot’ changed to ‘likely to have been shot’.

That form of words, ‘likely to have been shot’ was so bizarre that it set alarm bells ringing immediately one read them. Was it shot or not? Let’s see the X-ray!

And we still need to see that X-ray to see how tricky and difficult an assessment it was to decide that Rowan had been shot. I’m sure it will emerge soon.

You’ll notice that these events spanned the time when our MPs debated the future of driven grouse shooting and where precious little attention was paid to the fact that Hen Harriers are likely to be shot (or trapped or occasionally poisoned) when visiting driven grouse moors. It would have been more difficult for MPs and particularly the minister Therese Coffey to sweep all that wildlife crime under the carpet had the original press statement said that Rowan had been shot – a statement released promptly after the post mortem and three days before the debate.

But the delay between 3 November and 7 November, and the discussions between senior NE staff and the Chair (Philip Merricks) and others in the Hawk and Owl Trust in that period, look likely (what a useful word that is!) to have been the source of the inelegant wording.  And this is despite the Police being perfectly happy with the word ‘shot’.

Why the Hawk and Owl Trust Chair might want to muddy the waters about the demise of a Hen Harrier whose satellite tag his own organisation had funded is beyond me but Philip is known not to be an eco-zealot. He was probably just trying to get the wording perfect. So it’s odd that a wildlife NGO would allow a press statement to go out that was so imperfectly worded.

And why would NE senior staff, who are essentially an arm of Defra and its ministers, be happy with such vague and imprecise wording on a subject close to ministers’ hearts? It’s a real conundrum!

Who were the ‘likely’ lads?

Let’s see that X-ray soon, please!

And meanwhile, hats off to RPUK!! Great work guys! If it weren’t for you we still wouldn’t be able to say, three months later, that Rowan was shot – but he was, and we can, thanks to you.

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12 Replies to “Who are the Likely Lads?”

  1. Yes Mark, a big hats off to RPUK.
    We know Phil Murkytricks reads your blogs as he has responded in the past.
    I wonder if he has enough decency to contribute here and defend HOTs less than impressive dealings in this latest piece of deception. Come on Phil, in my opinion your actions are tantamount to corruption, let's here your side of the story.
    At worst, he'll ignore this, and at best he'll hide behind the old "can't prejudice any enquiries" chestnut.

  2. Well let's see what comes next. There may well be some very tricky questions for a few people to answer. Then we all need to make as much noise as we possibly can to get this out into the open. We all suspect such happenings -but it will help immensely if we can prove it.

    1. Which is the bit that is speculating?
      Oh, you mean whether it is tweedledum or tweedledee or both.
      I know who i would speculate on.
      It stands out like a sore thumb.

  3. Make sure you pop back Andrew when we do. It always seems strange to me that your defence is that you do not have the evidence. Usually, the defence of the innocent is to say that we did not commit a crime. So even your defence implies guilt.

  4. Perhaps the evidence is being suppressed Mr Fox? You really think it is RPUK or Mark et. al.?

    Why on earth would we wish to hide evidence, now those who seek to rid the uplands of raptors appear to be trying to dodge the metaphoric bullets, why?

  5. Unfortunately the simple facts are this bird was shot and without that crime being witnessed it is nearly impossible to prove which ---------- ( insert appropriate expletive) committed the deed. That is the only evidence we seem to be missing. Quite why NE and HOT should wish to obfuscate about the simple evidence of the bird being shot is indeed open to speculation, it certainly wasn't the police nor Stephen Murphy.

  6. As far as I have read, the exact spot where Rowan was found has not been released, only ' Ravensdale area'. If the x-rays/ PM results had been published at the time, the amount of shot in the bird might reveal wether it would have been capable of any flight at all after being shot. This might lead to the suggestion of which of the nearby shoots might be associated with the incident, and all just as the debate was about to take place?

  7. Whilst this is excellent work exposing how this is being watered down, and uncertainty introduced into statements before being made public, this is part of a general pattern. Whenever definite evidence pointing towards the illegal killing of Hen Harriers emerges, shady figures in the establishment seem to stop the announcement of more definite information which will point the finger at the culprits, and they ensure artificial introduction of an element of uncertainty, where no true uncertainty exists. This is a key part of the way dishonest propagandists and cover up merchants work, introducing doubt where in reality there is none.

    I'm also not buying this we have to be careful because of ongoing investigations excuses. Firstly nothing usually happens and no culprits are bought to justice. What's more in the minority of cases where a prosecution is brought and succeeds, some lowly estate worker or gamekeeper carries the can, and they get off with a paltry fine which is probably paid by those really behind the persecution. Which makes you wonder about the efficacy of keeping stum in the vain hope of a prosecution. A real exposé of the offending estate, their history of this, and the wider evidence would be far more of a deterrent than the few pathetic prosecutions and punishments which happen - and which make it falsely appear as if it was just a rogue employee.

    It pays not to get too bogged down in the little evidence we have. Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. We can be absolutely certain from factors which can be safely inferred that the vast majority of the illegal killing and persecution of Hen Harriers occurs out of sight. with no witnesses, no evidence which can be detected, and only the perpetrators are aware of what actually happened.

    As the vast majority of Hen Harrier killing and persecution leaves no detectable evidence, we need to concentrate on explaining the big picture. We need to get across to the public in a far more effective way, why we can be certain that this illegal persecution and killing is widespread, and not just the work of the odd rogue keeper like the dishonest shooting industry likes to pretend.

    Whilst many are doing great work, and Mark's "Inglorious" was good, the problem is that largely this is preaching to the converted. The informed and birders are infuriated by the problem, whilst the vast majority of the public don't even know what a Hen Harrier is, let alone the scale of this organized wildlife crime being perpetrated by the wealthy and powerful on them.

  8. Unfortunately DEFRA/Natural England are sh*t scared of the Moorland owners and sporting rights holders. As a former employee of NE I could see details of the 'agri-environment' schemes held by these people (though they were often in the names of anonymous companies so you couldn't identify the actual owner) and saw many agreements (often receiving hundreds of thousands of pounds of taxpayers money a year) were flagged up as 'important customer' or 'key customer' and anything likely to upset these agreement holders had to go high up the chain of command before it could be signed off.
    A big problem is many of these upland estates belong to members of the 'establishment' who often went to school with cabinet ministers or have other connections, so they have a lot of influence. A quick phone call could no doubt get them access to senior government officials and make issues disappear or certainly be very watered down. I will admit I have no direct evidence of this but a highly experienced (decades at NE) upland colleague told me thats basically how it works.
    Its such a shame as most of the grass roots staff at NE are hard working and passionate about protecting wildlife and the environment. Unfortunately, this government is systematically destroying NE with budget cuts and subtly intervening (albeit out of the public eye) in crucial work.


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