Pigeon-fancier found guilty of killing Holyrood falcon

Naph used to clear pigeons from the parliament. Picture: Dan Phillips/TSPL
Naph used to clear pigeons from the parliament. Picture: Dan Phillips/TSPL
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HE PATROLLED Scotland’s skies, protecting the Holyrood parliament and Hampden stadium from the damaging munitions of pigeons. Yet Naph the peregrine falcon did not meet his demise in aerial combat, but was instead blasted off a branch while taking a breather on his day off.

Yesterday, an elderly pigeon fancier was found guilty of shooting dead one of the Scottish Parliament’s prized falcons.

Andrew Hutchison then drove off with the body, leading Naph’s handlers in a frustrating four-mile search which culminated with the discovery of its homing beacon attached to a solitary leg.

Dunfermline Sheriff Court was told that two-year-old Naph – one of 25 birds used to prevent feral pigeons defecating on the parliament building – suddenly disappeared when he was caught by a gust of wind while being exercised on his Sunday off at a football complex at Torryburn, Fife.

He was last seen alive in a tree above the garden of racing pigeon keeper Andrew Hutchison, about 200 yards away. When Naph’s minders went to inquire what had happened to the falcon, the retired miner, 67, confessed he had shot him.

He then drove off with Naph’s body, leading his minders on a four-mile hunt before the bird’s transmitter, still attached to one of its legs, was found in a burn. The rest of the bird has never been found.

Hutchison, of Newmills, Fife, was found guilty yesterday of maliciously shooting and killing a working falcon with a .22 air rifle. He was also found guilty of removing the body of the bird from his garden, separating it from its radio transmitter, and dumping its body and the transmitter with intent to defeat the ends of justice.

Sheriff Craig McSherry deferred sentence for background reports until 18 January.

In evidence, falconer Ryan Dryburgh, a pest control technician with NBC Bird and Pest Solutions, said he had taken Naph to Torryburn on 3 April to fly him, as he normally did on a Sunday. He said Naph was fitted with the transmitter to allow him to be relocated if he got lost.

Mr Dryburgh said: “When Mr Hutchison realised the signal was coming from his garden, he told me he had shot the bird.”

Mr Dryburgh said he asked for the bird back, and Mr Hutchison said no.

Mr Dryburgh said: “I said, ‘Well, you’re going to have to pay for it then’.

“He came out of his back door with the bird. He put it into a black binbag and into his car. Then he got into his car and drove away with it.”

Mr Dryburgh said he had stood behind the car with a friend of his, Mark Bonham, and two other falconers to try to persuade Hutchison not to leave, but they were unsuccessful.

Mr Dryburgh said they called the police, and then went to look for the bird. They picked up a signal and tracked it to Oakley, four miles away, where they found the transmitter, one of the bird’s legs, and some other equipment, in a burn about 100 yards from the village police station.

Naph’s owner, Ian Kane, 48, Scottish franchise owner of NBC Bird and Pest Solutions, said it had cost the company £3,500 to buy and train Naph. His job at Holyrood was to “fly around” scaring pigeons from the structure, under a strict no-kill policy.

During the trial, Hutchison claimed that the bag he had left his house with had contained only bird seed, and insisted the witnesses were lying.

He told fiscal depute Tracey Plant, prosecuting: “They’re all telling lies. It’s a witches’ coven.”