Hitler set poisoned traps on Scottish estate

THE head gamekeeper on a top Scottish estate who doubled the number of game birds within a year yesterday admitted setting gin and pole traps.

George Rodenhurst, 39, who was popular with shooting tenants and his employers, Haddo estate, but nicknamed “Hitler” and “Attila” by the other workers, became the first person to be prosecuted under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 for setting poisoned bird and rabbit baits.

At Aberdeen Sheriff Court, Rodenhurst pled guilty to allowing gin and pole traps to be used on the Haddo Estate.

He also admitted being in possession of the insecticide Mevinphos and failing to warn other employees of its toxicity, failing to prevent a trainee gamekeeper having access to it or advising him on the risks of handling it.

The depute procurator-fiscal, Mr Alan McCrae, said that Rodenhurst worked on the Haddo Estate which was divided into several different departments of which the game department was the most important to the accounts.

Mr McRae said that gin traps were banned in 1954 because they did not kill birds and animals trapped in them and he said: “It is not unknown for an animal to actually eat or bite off a limb to escape a gin trap.”

He said that 1/333 oz of the insecticide Mevinphos, which Rogenhurst was in possession of, was lethal to humans and it could be absorbed through the skin. “A gamekeeper could have no legitimate use for it and he would not be licensed for it.”

Matters had come to light in September 1986 when a buzzard was found dead next to rabbit bait and its death was consistent by poisoning by alpha-Chloralose, which Rodenhurst yesterday admitted possessing. It was said to be a stupefying substance with real risk to human life.

Mr McCrae said that the number of game birds on the Haddo Estate had risen by 100% in the year following Rodenhurst’s arrival and this was too big a rise to occur if natural predators were tolerated. There was a bonus for Rodenhurst in the order of £3,000 linked to the number of game birds.

Mr Frank Lefevre, appearing for Rodenhurst, said his client had earned £125 a week, plus a vehicle and he did have a performance bonus but this was never more than £20 a week.

He said that his client’s predecessor had been unable to control poachers and other predators and the estate workers, according to Mr Rodenhurst, were simply running rings round him. Mr Lefevre said he was taken in to specifically correct that situation.

The shooting tenants and his employers were pleased with him and he handled the employees “with more than firmness. He attracted the nicknames Hitler or Attila from those who worked on the estate simply because of the way he did his job.”