POLICE are investigating claims that a pheasant shoot at a beauty spot near Wigan endangered walkers’ lives.
An ex-bobby today led the complaints, saying he feared for his safety as he trekked down a public footpath off Parbold Hill.
A five-year-old boy with his mum was also reduced to terrified tears as shots were fired overhead and dead game birds and feathers fell onto the track.
Former policeman Mark Dowd from Southport says he also spoke to a local resident whose windows have been broken and slates smashed by stray shot on previous occasions.
The shoot took place on land owned by businessman and philanthropist Sir Peter Moores, but it has leased to neighbour and fellow millionaire Dave Whelan.
Who was in the party of between 20 and 30 huntsmen and women is not known. Mr Whelan said today that it wasn’t a party in which he was involved but he robustly defended the right to stage shoots.
The letting agents for the land said that they would be looking into the allegations.
And Mr Dowd said: “Whoever these people were, they were not abiding by the shooting code of conduct. I was flabbergasted.
“The footpath runs straight off the top of Parbold Hill and is well used. And yet there were guns going off far too close by for comfort.
“There was a dead bird on or near the path and plenty of feathers too. There was a wooded area which could have obscured the party’s view of walkers and the path is so steep that even if you shoot up in the air you could hit ground if the gun is pointed in the wrong direction.
“I am pro-shooting but you have to act more responsibly than this. I shouted across to the group ‘are you allowed to shoot so close to the path?’ and one of them replied ‘yes, we have the landowner’s permission.”
“I met a woman with her five-year-old son who was very upset. She did not want to discuss it for fear of upsetting the boy more and I found another way back to my car because I didn’t want to go back up the same path.”
Chris Anderson for letting agent Smith Gore said: “This is most concerning. The lease has provisions clearly written into it about the code of conduct from the British Association for Shooting and Conservation.
“Basically these are common sense guidelines about shooting near rights of way.”
The BASC advises that “discretion be used where shooting needs to take place and where a public right of way exists. All persons participating in any shooting activity must recognise that users of public rights of way have the right to pass and re-pass.
“One should refrain from shooting when a right of way is being used as this could be construed as a common law nuisance, wilful obstruction or a breach of Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.”
Mr Whelan said: “The last shoot we had was last Monday so it had nothing to do with me.
“I have quite a lot of land round there that has public footpaths through it and people are very welcome to use them on the understanding that they stick to them. And if there are people passing by on a path we halt the shoot while they go by.
“I do think though that some people think that the countryside is just for walking in. But we breed and feed the partridge and pheasants who brighten up the place and you can hear sing and it is perfectly legal to hold shoots. All these birds that are shot are sold for £1 all over the country.”
A police spokeswoman confirmed that officers had received a complaint about a shoot in Parbold and that inquiries were on-going.
She asked that anyone with information ring Lancashire Police on 101 or Crimestopper on 0800 555111.