Convicted egg thief fell to death from tree

BRITAIN'S most notorious collector of rare birds' eggs died when he fell from a tree while examining a nest, an inquest has heard.

Colin Watson, 62, climbed three-quarters of the way up a 40ft larch tree before falling to his death.

A coroner's court was told he died from a punctured heart and multiple rib fractures sustained during the fall in woods near Doncaster, Yorkshire, on 24 May.

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The coroner yesterday recorded a verdict of accidental death and said it was not his role to examine why Mr Watson had climbed the tree.

Earlier, Watson's friend, David Sargent, told the inquest how the men had been walking in the woods before the accident.

"Colin said 'That looks like a sparrowhawk's nest' and he said he'd climb the tree to see if there was anything in the nest," Mr Sargent said.

"I was not paying much attention. Then I heard the sound of breaking branches and a thud."

Mr Watson travelled the country trying to add to his collection of rare birds' eggs.

He had a series of convictions for activities prohibited under the 1981 Wildlife and Countryside Act. These included taking golden eagles' eggs from near Inverness, attempting to do the same near Perth and of possessing snipe eggs in Lerwick.

During a raid on his home in 1985, the RSPB found more than 2,200 eggs, including those of a golden eagle, osprey and sparrowhawk.