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Highland man denies being in illegal possession of 338 bird eggs

By SPP Reporter

The Inverness courtroom has been taken over with photos of the birds' eggs
The Inverness courtroom has been taken over with photos of the birds' eggs

The trial of a man facing allegations of illegally trading in wild birds eggs entered its third day yesterday (Thursday).

Thirty prosecution witnesses have been called in the case against Keith Liddell and it is expected the case will be adjourned today (Friday) with further evidence to be led at a later date.

Yesterday an IT expert, Neil Whitehouse,(50), told the court how he had been asked to download a snapshot of e-mails from the account of an employee at Hartlepool Borough Council as part of the investigation.

He told Sheriff Gordon Fleetwood he had been asked to extract the e-mails from the account of an individual named Andrew Seed.

He said he carried out that work but he did not need to know the contents of the e-mails.

The first few days of the trial have been spent identifying productions found at the home of Liddell and at an address in County Durham after police raids in 2009 following investigations by the police and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.

In total the Crown is presenting 190 productions and much of the space in the main courtroom at Inverness is taken up by the exhibits which are being used in evidence.

Liddell (52) of Holm Dell Drive, in Inverness is facing 16 charges.

He denies 13 charges contrary to the Control of Trade in Endangered Species Regulations 1997 relating to the illegal trade of birds eggs.

Species include a number of European raptors including peregrine, red kite, merlin, snowy owl, Egyptian and griffon vulture.

He has also pleaded not guilty to three charges contrary to the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.

Two of these allege he was in unlawful possession of 338 birds’ eggs including a number of rare breeding species such as osprey, peregrine falcon, blackthroated dive, Slavonian and black-necked grebes.

He also denies being in possession of a range of items for keeping and trading birds eggs.

The offences are alleged to have taken place between August 27, 2004 and June 24, 2009.

Local wildlife officer, police constable Eric Sharkey (45) has told the trial he was part of a team of officers who raided Liddell’s home in Holm Dell Drive on June 24, 2009 with three search warrants to search his house and two vehicles.

His role was to record and label all the productions. The search centred on an office in a loft conversion and Liddell’s garage and Constable Sharkey said 56 boxes of assorted eggs were recovered.

Because there were so many productions to take the boxes of eggs away and break them down into separate productions.

"The boxes contained a large collection of eggs so big they had to be placed in a cell until we were in a position to examine them and list them individually."

He showed during his evidence a selection of containers including egg boxes, a chocolate tin and plastic containers through which eggs were visible.

The trial has also heard from PC Vincent Marriner (42) who was part of a police team who had a warrant to search a house in County Durham in February 2009.

He told Sheriff Gordon Fleetwood the house contained thousands of eggs stored in drawer chests, cabinets and boxes as well as books, paperwork and other packaging.

One box was addressed to postcode IV24GX and another was addressed K. Liddell, 5 IV2 4GX.

The trial continues.

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