A MAN was found guilty yesterday of “brutally” killing a seagull by stoning it to death in a “disgraceful” attack.
John Stafford, 32, was at his home in Buckhaven in Fife when he attacked the herring gull, kicking it and hitting it on the head with a rock, a court heard.
The attack was spotted by neighbours, who saw the gull in the garden of the house as Stafford and another man – who has now died – battered it to death with a rock and a piece of wood.
The young seabird’s corpse was left in the garden until police officers picked it up and took it to Levenmouth police station, following the attack in July 2011.
Kirkcaldy Sheriff Court heard that either Stafford or the other man had taken the seagull into the garden before the attack.
Prosecuting, Mina Poppius told the court that Stafford’s neighbours – Christine White and her daughter Lisa White – saw the incident.
The depute fiscal said: “The witnesses in this case speak about the young seagull being ushered into the garden by Stafford and being kicked, and at this point the gull was still moving and flapping its wings.
“Both witnesses have given evidence that Stafford appears to be hitting the gull forcefully with a rock.
“There is obviously another person who strikes the bird with things including what appeared to be a fencepost.
“The two people were clearly in each other’s company and together.
“It is clear from the evidence that prior to being attacked, the bird appears to be alive, and after the attack it appears to be dead”.
The court heard the bird died from blows to the head.
Miss Poppius concluded, saying: “The Crown’s position is that it was the actions of Stafford and the other person that led to the death of the bird”.
Police constable Lauren O’Neill said she was called to the house, on Rushin Crescent, after reports that a bird had been “brutally killed” at a property on the street.
She said she collected the bird’s body from the garden of the house and took it to the police station where it was removed by the Scottish SPCA.
Stafford was found guilty, after a two-day trial, of – while acting with another – intentionally or recklessly killing the wild bird, a herring gull, by repeatedly stoning, kicking and striking it with a stick.
Defending, Dewar Spence, said there were differences in the evidence as to how the bird got into Stafford’s garden.
Sheriff James Williamson deferred sentence for criminal justice social background reports – a possible prelude to imposing a jail term.
He told Stafford: “You were seen hitting and striking the bird. I have no hesitation in agreeing the evidence that says you were involved in an attack that leads to the bird’s death.
“There is no reasonable doubt and I find you guilty.”
The sheriff added: “I have to say, Mr Stafford, that I find the whole thing disgraceful.”
Outside court, Stafford insisted that he was innocent of the offence, and it was the other man in the charge that carried out the attack.
He said: “I never hit that bird, the other person who was there did everything. I never harmed the bird, I wouldn’t do that.”