Obsessive egg thief jailed after 15 years of raiding bird nests

Maria Breslin
Thursday 05 September 2002 00:00 BST

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Louise Thomas

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A bird egg thief branded "a serious threat to British wildlife" was jailed yesterday for six months.

Carlton D'Cruze was one of the country's most prolific collectors, South Sefton magistrates' court, in Bootle, Merseyside, heard. He targeted rare birds such as the osprey, chough and white-tailed eagle.

Police and officials from the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, who raided his home in March, said the seizure of his collection was one of the most important in the past 20 years.

D'Cruze, 41, of Thornton, Merseyside, admitted 13 offences under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 when he appeared in court in July. He took the eggs during raids all over Britain over 15 years.

The magistrate, Val Jarvis, said: "The offences are so serious that only a custodial sentence can be justified ... you were well aware of what you were doing and the likely impact on wildlife."

Paula Grogan, for the prosecution, said the case was one of the most serious and significant to come before the court since the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 was passed. She said that when officers forced their way into his home they found D'Cruze in the bathroom "in the process of smashing up birds' eggs" and destroying documents.

Among the paperwork recovered by officers was a notebook containing a "graphic and rather harrowing account" of how a female eagle ended up breaking one of her own eggs in a desperate attempt to defend her nest during a collection raid in the night.

Ms Grogan said the discovery of six clutches of osprey eggs during the operation was "unprecedented".

Other specimens recovered included eggs from the white-tailed eagle – one of the UK's rarest birds with about 20 territorial pairs – and 62 chough eggs, prized because of the challenge of reaching the cliffside nest sites.

Police also found hundreds of maps at D'Cruze's home, details of nesting sites and information on future raids, as well as documentation which led to raids across the country, with one Coventry collector jailed for four months as a direct result.

Speaking after sentence was passed, PC Andy McWilliam, Merseyside Police's wildlife liaison officer, said D'Cruze had got "his just deserts".

He added: "Egg collectors are responsible for making some rare birds extinct as a breeding species in the UK. This offender is one of the most prolific collectors in the country and he has targeted some of our rarest species. He has been a serious threat to British wildlife."

D'Cruze, who is unemployed and has two children, admitted taking clutches of avocet and marsh harrier eggs during raids at the Norfolk Cley marshes and the Norfolk Broads in May 2000.

He also admitted stealing 12 eggs from the nest of a little tern in Cumbria and possessing 453 eggs from species including the peregrine falcon, the white-tailed eagle, the golden eagle, the osprey and the black and red throated divers.

The eggs were taken over 15 years from across England, including Cumbria, Norfolk, Lancashire, Merseyside and the West Midlands; from the Welsh counties of Gwynedd, Powys and Dyfed and at Scottish nesting sites on Mull, in the Cairngorms, the Highlands, Orkney, Grampian and Tayside.

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