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'Obsessional' South Devon rare bird eggs collectors fined £1,000 each

By Herald Express  |  Posted: November 08, 2012

clear message:   Josh Marshall, with some of the  eggs   Andy Uglow

clear message: Josh Marshall, with some of the eggs Andy Uglow

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A RARE birds' eggs collecting ring has been smashed in South Devon.

Marcus Betteridge and Seymour Parish Crang were fined thousands of pounds for collecting dozens of rare wild bird eggs.

The pair, who were described in court as 'Premier League' level egg collectors, both pleaded guilty to various wildlife offences.

Betteridge, 53, and Crang, 50, were described in court as 'obsessional' collectors and nest finders with a 'twisted psyche' who pursued their hobby despite it carrying the threat of a jail sentence since 2001.

Betteridge, from Totnes, pleaded guilty to intentionally or recklessly disturbing a Dartford warbler at Little Haldon, near Teignmouth, in 2009 and was fined £1,000 by Newton Abbot magistrates with £265 costs.

Crang, of Wildacres Bittaford, Ivybridge, admitted a charge of illegally possessing 15 wild bird eggs, and received the same punishment.

Police and wildlife groups have welcomed the sentence saying it sent a strong message to bird eggs collectors that wildlife offences are being taken seriously.

Guy Shorrock, senior investigations officer at the RSPB headquarters who came down for the hearing, said: "Mr Betteridge was in the premier league of egg collectors in this country for more than 20 years.

"Devon and Cornwall police have a good record of prosecuting wildlife crime and we are happy to support them."

Wildlife officer PC Josh Marshall said the fines were 'a good indication' of how seriously the magistrates were taking such crimes.

He added: "This should send a clear message to persons engaged in such criminal activity that they will be identified and brought to justice."

The charges were brought after a joint raid on both men's homes in 2010 revealed the collection of bird eggs, belonging to Crang, an unemployed bricklayer.

There were five eggs of a lesser redpoll, four of a tree pipit, five linnet eggs and one of a redshank, all kept in a cotton wool-lined icecream carton.

A diary belonging to Betteridge, running to hundreds of pages with detailed notes covering more than a decade of activity, was also found. Mark Haddow, prosecuting, said Betteridge, a builder and odd job man, had once been an associate of Britain's most notorious egg collector, Colin Watson, who died in 2006 after falling from a tree, collecting eggs.

He told the court: "Watson was the number one most wanted man by the RSPB – Betteridge and him collected for a long time."

Mr Haddow said a statute of limitations meant only two years of activity could be prosecuted.

Betteridge, who has three previous convictions including attempting to steal golden eagles eggs in Scotland, admitted only one offence, on April 25 last year, that of disturbing the warbler.

Crang was said to have had one previous conviction – a £3,000 fine after being caught with 1,212 eggs, some from 'schedule 1' birds

Nigel Butt, mitigating for the two men, objected to the characterisation of the two men as 'criminals and fundamentalists'.

He said: "They are in no way evil or wicked – they are people passionate about their subject and have had to adjust their behaviour."

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  • robocop1982  |  November 14 2012, 8:00PM

    endangering species for money. whats these people do could have consequences for everybody. THose eggs they stole could of been the reincarnation of some humans who not long past away and were due to be reborn as birds. THey may well of triggered and sent that suffering to another manisfestation.

    Rate   1
  • robocop1982  |  November 14 2012, 7:53PM

    remember the people who do this are preventing a life form being born as nature intended. THey are taking away a great species existence and preventing it from occurring. ITs like destroying somebodies unborn child or species however you wish to view it as or preventing it from naturally occurring. DUmb people tend to forget other species share the same feelings as people.

    Rate   1
  • nicold  |  November 10 2012, 10:24AM

    I think this subject has run it's course now. It can be taken off!

    Rate   -4
  • Charlespk  |  November 10 2012, 9:57AM

    'perspective' not 'perceptive'.

    Rate   -3
  • Charlespk  |  November 09 2012, 8:35PM

    What's been achieved by seizing the egg collection? . Just so others can have the pleasure of gawping at it? "twisted psyche"!? . This worlds FULL of thieves and drug takers who constantly stick two fingers in the air to the world. . Not to mention the psychos who dig up dead bodies! Going after hunters with a gyrocopter and killing one or digging up bodies is "obsessional twisted psyche". Get your priorities right. Dartford Warbler. The only British resident members of their family. . Dartford Warblers are now very rare, being confined to a few counties in southern and south western England. . They breed on commons where heather and furze bushes are abundant. In these plants, and particularly in heather, the nest is built and is usually very well concealed. It is a firm, compact structure of shoots and rootlets of heather and furze interwoven with grass, feathers and wool, whilst its crevices are often stopped with moss and fragments of spiders' webs; the cup is lined with hair fur and fine grass. The eggs are laid in clutches of from four to six in number and there are usually two clutches in the year, the first being laid in April and the second in June or even early in July. . The ground colour of the eggs is a pale yellowish or greenish white, and the usually profuse markings vary in shades from grey through olive-green to a reddish brown. These beautiful and rare warblers have suffered from the unworthy attention of egg collectors. But they are also severely affected by cold winters and by heath-fires in the breeding season." No one is justifying their actions, just putting it into some perceptive. Those who bothered to want to learn about these things were not going around the countryside destroying nests. Any discoveries were highly guarded secrets, unlike today with hordes of the self-righteous setting up cameras and drawing attention to them; frightening off as many or more than they save. They taught a generation all about the problems. And again I repeat. . The generation that are happy to let badgers, raptors and foxes just decimate ground nesting birds and hedgehogs demonstrate the hypocrisy of Richard Nixon when he said "I am not a crook.

    Rate   -3
  • plughole  |  November 08 2012, 6:40PM

    Terrible thing to do

    Rate   2