Campaigner held 10 hours over drowned squirrel

A wildlife campaigner said today he was arrested, handcuffed and detained for 10 hours after he drowned a grey squirrel to provoke the RSPCA into taking him to court.

Norris Atthey, 66, chairman of ant-grey activists Morpeth Red Squirrels, killed the animal last week to confront the charity following its prosecution of Raymond Elliott last month.

Burton magistrates granted Mr Elliott a conditional discharge but ordered him to pay £1,547 costs to the RSPCA after the 58-year-old window cleaner admitted causing unnecessary suffering to an animal by drowning a grey squirrel in a water butt.

Mr Atthey, a former military policeman of Ulgham, Morpeth, was furious about the prosecution and last week spoke out in the media about the RSPCA, claiming the huge charity was acting like a bully.

An inspector visited the grandfather-of-four's home yesterday and when Mr Atthey refused to co-operate, two police officers arrived to arrest him.

He was taken to Bedlington police station - often used for high security suspects - in handcuffs, around 11am, and finally allowed home at about 9pm, after being questioned on suspicion of causing unnecessary suffering to an animal.

His home was searched and five dead grey squirrels were removed from his freezer and will be subjected to autopsies later.

Mr Atthey, who said he was afraid of nothing having survived cancer, admitted part of the reason he was detained for so long was that he argued he was being held unlawfully.

"I am incensed about the whole affair," he said.

"People cannot believe what's going on.

"My solicitor was gobsmacked."

Mr Atthey traps grey squirrels to protect native reds, and claims to humanely dispatch them. The greys in his freezer were to be sold to a Northumberland game supplier for £1 each.

He normally shoots them with a powerful air rifle having trapped them, but decided to drown one a fortnight ago to challenge the RSPCA.

He said it took 30 seconds to die and believed he could prove drowning was a humane method of killing squirrels, but the RSPCA strongly disagrees and views drowning as unlawful.

A Northumbria Police spokesman said: "Police were called to assist RSPCA officers at an address in Ulgham at around 10.45am yesterday.

"Officers arrested a 66-year-old man at the address for causing unnecessary suffering to an animal."

If the charity decides to go ahead and prosecute, Mr Atthey will be summonsed to appear before South East Northumberland magistrates.

Mr Atthey said: "I'm trying to prove we have to stand up to the RSPCA otherwise we won't be able to trap grey squirrels and reds will die."

An RSPCA official said it was not an animal welfare charity's place to recommend a lawful way to dispatch squirrels, but if someone did trap an animal it was their responsibility to find a humane method of "euthanasing" it.

In a report on red and grey squirrels in Northern England, the organisation Natural England advised against drowning unless no other fast-acting method was possible.

A spokesman said: "Our inspector visited yesterday morning but the man refused to talk with our inspector and just closed the door on him, advising him to get the police in to arrest him in order to facilitate an interview.

"This was duly done and he was interviewed yesterday at the police station.

"Investigations are ongoing and we are unable to make any further comment at this stage."

The Banksy image in Folkestone before it was vandalised
Life and Style

Sales of the tablet are set to fall again, say analysts

football West Brom vs Man Utd match report: Blind grabs point, but away form a problem for Van Gaal
Arts and Entertainment
Gotham is coming to UK shores this autumn
tvGotham, episode 2, review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Bloom Time: Mira Sorvino
tvMira Sorvino on leaving movie roles for 'The Intruders'
First woman: Valentina Tereshkova
peopleNASA guinea pig Kate Greene thinks it might fly
Brian Harvey turned up at Downing Street today demanding to speak to the Prime Minister

Met Police confirm there was a 'minor disturbance' and that no-one was arrested

Arts and Entertainment
George Lucas poses with a group of Star Wars-inspired Disney characters at Disney's Hollywood Studios in 2010

George Lucas criticises the major Hollywood film studios

Chris Grayling, Justice Secretary: 'There are pressures which we are facing but there is not a crisis'

Does Chris Grayling realise what a vague concept he is dealing with?

Life and Style
A street vendor in Mexico City sells Dorilocos, which are topped with carrot, jimaca, cucumber, peanuts, pork rinds, spices and hot sauce
food + drink

Trend which requires crisps, a fork and a strong stomach is sweeping Mexico's streets

Life and Style
The charity Sands reports that 11 babies are stillborn everyday in the UK
lifeEleven babies are stillborn every day in the UK, yet no one speaks about this silent tragedy
Blackpool is expected to become one of the first places to introduce the Government’s controversial new Public Space Protection Orders (PSPOs)

Parties threaten resort's image as a family destination

Life and Style
Northern soul mecca the Wigan Casino
fashionGone are the punks, casuals, new romantics, ravers, skaters, crusties. Now all kids look the same
Life and Style

I Am Bread could actually be a challenging and nuanced title

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Year 5 Teacher

£80 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Year 5 Teacher KS2 teaching job...

Software Developer

£35000 - £45000 Per Annum Pensions Scheme After 6 Months: Clearwater People So...

Systems Analyst / Business Analyst - Central London

£35000 - £37000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Systems Analyst / Busines...

Senior Change Engineer (Network, Cisco, Juniper) £30k

£30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ampersand Consulting LLP: Senior Change ...

Day In a Page

Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Salisbury ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities

The city is home to one of the four surviving copies of the Magna Carta, along with the world’s oldest mechanical clock
Let's talk about loss

We need to talk about loss

Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album