Thief who took 5,266 birds’ eggs faces jail
Collecting ‘addict’ put several rare species at risk with crimes having ‘huge impact’ on populations
BRITAIN’S most prolific bird egg thief single-handedly put the future of nightjars and turtle doves at risk, the RSPB has warned.
Daniel Lingham, 65, is facing jail after illegally collecting more than 5,000 bird eggs, including a number of endangered species, Norwich magistrates’ court heard yesterday.
Lingham was caught after a member of the public told police she had seen a man “head-to-toe in camouflage gear” picking eggs up off the ground at Cawston Heath in Norfolk, the court heard.
Officers then searched his home address and found tubs containing eggs under his bed and in the kitchen and living room, with many of them handwritten on.
Colette Harper, prosecuting, said officers found a total of 5,266 eggs of species including nightingales, nightjars, turtle doves and chiffchaffs. She said Lingham, who pleaded guilty yesterday to five offences under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, told the officers who arrested him: “I’ve been a silly man, haven’t I?”
Speaking outside the court, Mark Thomas, an RSPB senior investigator, said Lingham’s crimes would have a “huge impact” on the local, regional and national populations of some of Britain’s “rarest and most threatened birds, including nightjars and turtle doves”.
He said: “At a time when egg collecting is on the decline, Lingham is the most prolific egg collector in recent years. It’s rare that a collection of this magnitude comes to light these days.
“Birds like the turtle dove are in long term decline – we have lost 94 per cent of our turtle doves in the UK since 1995 and no UK bird is declining faster.
Ms Harper told the court that 75 of the eggs found at Lingham’s property had the highest level of protection under the wildlife laws, adding that “these species are in decline”.
She said that in his police interview Lingham had claimed: “This is an addiction.”
He was convicted of similar offences in 2005 when he was jailed for 12 weeks for illegally collecting 3,603 eggs, the court heard.
The charges to which Lingham pleaded guilty yesterday are taking nine linnet eggs at Cawston Heath on May 21 and possession of articles capable of being used to commit an offence found during the stop search, which are tree-climbing spikes, binoculars and padded containers.
He also admitted possession of 75 schedule one listed wild bird eggs, possession of 4,070 ordinarily protected wild bird eggs and possession of articles capable of being used to commit an offence found at his home address, which were wooden receptacles, plastic containers and egg reference books.
Lingham told magistrates: “I didn’t realise how many eggs there were. I didn’t count them.”
James Burrows, mitigating, said Lingham has been referred to a mental health team and is being treated for obsessive compulsive disorder.
Jeanne Heal, chairman of the bench, adjourning the hearing for a pre-sentence report, warned Lingham: “We’re looking at a quite lengthy custodial sentence.” He was bailed to appear at the court on Nov 27.