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'Obsessional' pair fined for collecting birds' eggs

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: November 07, 2012

  • Police search Crang's home

  • Seymour Crang

  • Marcus Betteridge

  • PC Josh Marshall with evidence from the bird egg theft case.

  • MNAJ20121105-006

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A “Premier League” level collector of rare wild bird eggs and his associate were ordered to pay a total of more than £2,500 after admitting wildlife offences in Devon.

Marcus Betteridge, 53, pleaded guilty to intentionally or recklessly disturbing a Dartford warbler at Little Haldon, near Teignmouth, in 2009 and was fined £1,000 by magistrates with £265 costs.

Seymour Parish Crang, 50, of Wildacres Bittaford, Ivybridge, admitted a charge of illegally possessing 15 wild bird eggs, and received the same punishment.

The pair 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.

Police and wildlife groups welcomed the sentence, at Newton Abbot Magistrates’ Court yesterday.

Guy Shorrock, senior investigations officer at the RSPB headquarters who came down for the hearing, said it was “about reasonable”. “Mr Betteridge was in the premier league of egg collectors in this country for more than 20 years,” he added.

“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.

The charges were brought after a joint raid on both men’s homes in 2010 revealed the collection of bird eggs, belonging to Mr 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 ice cream carton.

A diary belonging to Mr Betteridge, running to hundreds of pages with detailed notes covering more than a decade of activity, was also found.

Mark Haddow, prosecuting, said Mr 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.

“Watson was the number one most wanted by the RSPB – Marcus Betteridge and him collected for a long time,” he said.

Mr Haddow said that a statute of limitations meant only two years’ activity was subject to prosecution, but claimed the RSPB believed the document showed him to be a “serial lawbreaker”.

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

Mr 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, defending, objected to the characterisation of the two men as “criminals and fundamentalists”.

“They are in no way evil or wicked – they are people passionate about their subject and have had to adjust their behaviour,” he added.

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  • omnivore23  |  November 09 2012, 12:11PM

    "So let me get this right Charles. You think that people can only be justified in criticising people who illegally kill birds through egg collecting if those same people also criticise badgers and foxes for eating hedgehogs. .....and that should they fail to do this then they are as guilty of hypocracy as Richard Nixon (actually Nixons statement made him a liar rather than a hypocrite but that aside....) Have I got this right? - heaven forbid I should fail to grasp your point - so help me out."

    |   1
  • omnivore23  |  November 09 2012, 11:59AM

    Agreed on both counts Ladybug.

    |   -1
  • 2ladybugs  |  November 09 2012, 11:47AM

    All I am agreeing with is the fact that other things are helping to bring about the demise of grounds nesting birds. This report of theft though is a completely different issue and one which I will never agree with.

    |   2
  • omnivore23  |  November 09 2012, 11:43AM

    ladybugs So you agree with Charles assertions that you cannot criticise egg stealers without also being prepared to criticise foxes and badgers for eating birds a and hedgehogs?

  • 2ladybugs  |  November 09 2012, 11:08AM

    I haven't got much time for twitchers, especially when you have a rare visitor in the garden and all hell breaks loose. Otherwise most genuine birdwatchers use hides or natural vegetation to camouflage themselves when taking photo's I do agree with the last sentence though. if that is any consolation.

    |   2
  • 2ladybugs  |  November 09 2012, 11:02AM

    ??.......and the rare tree pipit (4eggs when a clutch might only be 4) and rare lesser redpoll (5 eggs when a clutch might only be 5 ) nests usually in trees. How can you be sure these nests weren't decimated by all the clutch being stolen. Also this is happening in the here and now not years ago!

    |   3
  • omnivore23  |  November 09 2012, 11:00AM

    So let me get this right Charles. You think that people can only be justified in criticising people who illegally kill birds through egg collecting if those same people also criticise badgers and foxes for eating hedgehogs. .....and that should they fail to do this then they are as guilty of hypocracy as Richard Nixon (actually Nixons statement made him a liar rather than a hypocrite but that aside....) Have I got this right? - heaven forbid I should fail to grasp your point - so help me out.

  • 2ladybugs  |  November 08 2012, 10:57PM

    I rarely disagree with Charlespk but on this occasion I do. Whilst children taking one egg from a nest you can put down to naivety the same can't be said for grown men. These men have stolen eggs knowing that these birds are in decline. There can be no excuse for this robbing nests of rare bird's eggs. I find the whole thing quite sickening. We might all have obsessions for collecting things but we don't go around stealing to get a collection. I enjoy expensive sports cars but I don't go around stealing them to get a collection.

    |   4
  • Jungle_Jim  |  November 08 2012, 9:11PM

    Flamin heck Talk about pots and kettles

  • omnivore23  |  November 08 2012, 7:36PM

    Oh I see - you weren't responding to my posts on a few other threads because you don't want to waste your time with me. .......and there was me thinking you had no response because you were out of your depth and couldn't respond to the very specific questions and points I raised without resorting to evasion or endless reposting of banal video links. Unlike you Charles, I will extend the courtesy of addressing what I assume to be the main thrust of your "argument" I know children who are marvelous. I also know some older people who are repellant morons. Which proves nothing, like your assertion that bird egg collectors are "better people" than children bought up on video games. This like most of your arguments is unfounded and absurd It is however highly entertaining and hilarious. Another excellent post

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