Fox-death golfer could face 6 months' jail
THE golfer accused of battering a "tame" fox with a golf club, leaving the animal fatally wounded, claimed yesterday that he acted in self defence because he was in fear for his safety.
Donald Forbes said he swung his club at the fox because the animal was trying to get into his golf bag in search of food. And he insisted that the fox had only been stunned when he last saw it alive.
Mr Forbes was suspended as a member of Peterculter Golf Club, on the outskirts of Aberdeen, two days ago at an emergency meeting of the club's committee, called to discuss the death of a young fox on the course.
The police are investigating the incident under the Wild Mammals Protection Act 1996. A conviction of mutilating a wild animal carries a maximum penalty of six months in jail or a fine of 5,000.
The fox, which had become a regular visitor to the course on the banks of the River Dee over the past few months, was found injured on the course by a group of golfers on Friday afternoon and was so badly injured it had to be put down.
It has been claimed that golfers who heard the fox "screaming in agony" found the animal with its legs broken and a Mars Bar in its mouth.
The death of the fox caused outrage among the membership of the club, leading to Mr Forbes's suspension at a hastily called emergency meeting of the committee on Tuesday.
But yesterday, speaking for the first time about the incident, Mr Forbes defended his actions. He said: "I was playing golf with a group of friends. I came off the ninth tee and noticed there was a fox ferreting for food in my bag.
"I saw that it was an uncomfortable situation as it was in my bag. I took the opportunity to shout 'get away from my bag'. I could see the fox was moving my bag away."
He added: "I swung the club at the fox - not aiming anywhere in particular - and gave a glancing blow to the fox and stunned it."
He added: "I did not kill the fox. The fox was still alive when I left. I was concerned for my safety from a wild animal. I realise that the actions I took in protection of my person are not in agreement with everyone's beliefs. But I was in fear for my person."
The club's decision to suspend Mr Forbes was announced in brief statement issued through the club's solicitors. The committee said: "Having considered the information which is currently available, the committee has unanimously decided to suspend a club member pending further investigations by the club, the police and the SSPCA.The committee will fully co-operate with the police and the SSPCA."
"The club has a clear policy for accommodating or, where necessary, dealing with wildlife on the golf course in an appropriate and proper manner.
"Whatever the eventual outcome of these investigations, the committee deeply regrets the circumstances of the death of this animal and the distress caused to both members of the club and the general public."
It is understood the club has received threatening e-mails from animal rights' activists demanding the golfer be exposed.
The investigation into the death of the fox is being headed by Constable David MacKinnon, a wildlife crime officer with Grampian Police.
The body of the fox is currently the subject of a post mortem examination being carried out at the veterinary laboratory at Craibstone in Aberdeen to determine the cause of death.
Constable MacKinnon said: "The enquiry is at a very early stage and we are still trying to ascertain if there is an actual crime. There are a number of witness still to be seen.
"The legislation we are looking at is the Wild Mammals Protection Act 1996, which deals with certain acts such as the mutilation and beating of wild mammals."
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