Francis Addison gamekeeper charged in connection with discovery of five dead goshawks

Gamekeeper Francis Addison convicted in dead goshawks investigation

On the 29th of June, Francis Addison (72) a part-time gamekeeper of South Park, Weeting, pleaded guilty at Norwich Magistrates’ court to NINETEEN charges in connection with a multi-agency raptor persecution investigation led by Suffolk Police, including the possession of five shot Goshawks.

As Protect the Wild reported back in January this year, the bodies of five young (Northern) Goshawks were found dumped in Forestry England’s King’s Forest near Thetford in Suffolk. The fully grown juveniles were found at the Brandon end of the large car park area off the B1106, North Stow. They were taken away and x-rayed. All were found to contain shotgun pellets.

There was no evidence to convict Addison of killing the birds, as an RSPB press-release explains, but he was charged with:

  • Five counts of possession of a dead schedule 1 wild bird (Goshawk) (see > Birds of Prey and the Law)
  • One count of killing a non-schedule 1 wild bird (Wood Pigeon)
  • One count of use of an animal trap in circumstance for which it is not approved
  • Two counts of possession of an article capable of being used to commit a summary offence, namely two air rifles and six animal traps
  • Six counts of failing to comply with the conditions of a firearm certificate
  • Four counts of failing to comply with the condition of a shotgun certificate (see > Firearms and the Law)


Many of us will never be charged with even one offence in a court, although if we are it’s perhaps not something to be too concerned about given that for an entire catalogue of crime Addison was given just 12 weeks imprisonment – suspended for 12 months – and ordered to pay just £1080 in compensation and £105 costs.

Perhaps that leniency partly arose from the work done in mitigation by Addison’s defence lawyer Lisa Robinson, who told the court that Addison’s dog came across the birds of prey piled up while they were out for a walk! Addison then apparently put the birds in a bag. Perhaps we should commend his fitness at this point – not many 72-year-olds are fit enough to wander around with a bag big enough to put five dead goshawks into after all.

He then apparently took the bag and the bodies home, intending (honest, guv) to take them to the British Trust for Ornithology (which is headquartered literally a short drive down the road) – but when a friend told him it was illegal to have the birds, alive or dead, he decided instead to take the far riskier option of returning to where he had found them to tip the corpses back out again (presumably hoping that he wouldn’t be seen or asked why he was dumping the bodies of protected birds of prey in a woodland rather than reporting the matter to the police).

Quite the workout…


“The death of five goshawks is a particularly serious matter”

Once common, there are now around 600 pairs of goshawks scattered across the UK, with the largest numbers in Wales and southern Scotland.

Following Addison’s sentencing, Sergeant Brian Calver of Suffolk Constabulary’s Rural and Wildlife Crime team said:

“This is a particularly disturbing case. Bird of prey crime is a national wildlife crime priority, which is taken very seriously by police. We will leave no stone unturned in pursuing criminals that cause deliberate harm to wildlife.

“This incident has had a significant impact on the Goshawk population in the Brecks and in particular their ability to expand their territory.”

Tom Grose, an investigations officer with the RSPB, said removing five goshawks from the population was significant:

“The death of five goshawks is a particularly serious matter. The species was once wiped out in this country and it’s still struggling to re-establish itself.”

He might have added that illegal persecution is why the species is struggling here, while, for example, there large urban populations live in parts of Europe where gamekeepers aren’t killing them…


The five dead young goshawks. Image Suffolk Police

If gamekeepers don’t know the law, we’re here to help…

There is a long history of goshawk persecution in the UK. But it’s not confined to the past:

  • A head keeper employed on a grouse moor in Royal Deeside was banned from controlling birds for three years over an alleged incident involving a goshawk in 2014.
  • In 2015 George Mutch became the first gamekeeper in Scotland to be jailed for recklessly killing or injuring a goshawk and illegally taking away another goshawk and a buzzard.
  • In 2020 three gamekeepers were suspended for killing a goshawk on the Duchy of Lancaster’s Goathland Moor shooting estate.
  • In 2021 a highly experienced gamekeeper in the Scottish Borders was convicted after a goshawk (and a Barn Owl) died inside a trap which he’d neglected to check.
  • In May 2022 the Hunt Investigation Team filmed a masked man removing a goshawk from an illegally-set trap (baited with live pigeons) on Norfolk’s Hillsborough Estate.
  • In June 2022 Gloucestershire Police appealed for info after a goshawk was found shot in the Forest of Dean.


It really shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that yet another gamekeeper (an employee of the very same shooting industry that threw its toys out of the pram when it was suggested that shooters might like to come forward and – you know – actually do something about the rising tide of wildlife crime committed so that they can continue their pointless hobby of killing birds) has been charged in this case.

No, there were no cameras to record Addison killing the bird and no witnesses. Addison hasn’t been found guilty of their deaths, but are we really supposed to believe that it was just coincidence that a member of a profession that is tasked with killing predatory birds and mammals on behalf an out-of-control industry underpinned with wildlife crime, happened across these birds and had no idea what he was supposed to do with them?

It’s not reported why keeping the dead bodies of protected birds of prey contrary to the law would come as such a revelation to an experienced 72-year-old gamekeeper, but perhaps Addison missed that vital part of his training while staring out of the window or taking a fag break…

Perhaps he was on the same course as fellow Weeting gamekeeper Matthew Stroud who also seemed ignorant of the law protecting birds of prey when just last year he admitted to the intentional killing of six Common Buzzards and yet another goshawk?

Touchingly, Ms Robinson told the court that Addison would never take part in the killing of goshawks and actually liked to watch them. These goshawks might not fly ever again, but if we’re to believe that, then pigs most certainly do…

Perhaps anyone else from the supposedly informed members of the said ‘gamekeeping’ profession who are unsure of the law might like to check out our Protectors page on > Birds of Prey and the Law. It won’t take them long to read it as the law is actually pretty clear: NO bird of prey can be shot, poisoned, or trapped, and they can not be intentionally or recklessly disturbed while they are nest building, nesting or caring for fledged chicks. The Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981 even makes it an offence to be in possession of the body of a dead bird of prey (in fact of any wild bird protected under Schedule 1).

Learning the law would be seem to a good idea given the scale of illegal raptor persecution in the UK – and the fact that Addison is reported to have said in court that “all gamekeepers were killing birds of prey.

It would be wrong of us to suggest that may well have been the one honest thing he said in court all day, but we have to wonder…



End the shooting industry

Of course gamekeepers are all at it, and that won’t come as a surprise to anyone who knows anything about the shooting industry and the appalling slaughter of Hen Harriers on grouse moors, who has read time and time again about the killing of Red Kites, or read about the shooting of yet another Short-eared Owl we reported on just eight days ago.

The fact that none of us should forget about all this illegal killing is that is being done SOLELY to protect pheasants, partridges, and grouse just long enough for them to be sold off to shooters.

There is no ecological or environmental reason to kill birds of prey. There are not, as some hysterical lobbyists for the shooting industry claim, ‘too many’ birds of prey. It is not being done for conservation. It is being done for profit.

The industry and the so-called ‘sportsmen’ who over and over again turn a blind eye to raptor persecution won’t do anything about this. So we need to. There is only one way to stop these crimes from taking place – and that is to get rid of the shooting industry once and for all.