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."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Vehicle Purchaser

£12000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: his is a unique opportunity to ...

Recruitment Genius: Accountant

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Summarises financial status by ...

Ashdown Group: HR, Payroll & Benefits Officer - Altrincham - up to £24,000.

£18000 - £24000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: HR, Payroll & Benefits Of...

Recruitment Genius: Salesforce Developer

£50000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to continued business growt...

Day In a Page

The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss