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The Secret Monitor

The Secret Monitor: East Yorkshire’s Holderness Hunt

Damaging stories from inside hunting, shooting, and the badger cull have been circulating for years. Everything from breaking the law to assaults or harassment of monitors and the public but a police force seemingly happy to ‘look the other way’.

But there is always someone watching, always someone listening. The Secret Monitor.

In this post the Secret Monitor is reporting from East Yorkshire where the focus of attention is the Holderness Hunt, a formerly ‘prestigious’ hunt propped up by inherited wealth and a rag-tag bunch of supporters that includes an equine vet and and a children’s book author.

As the Secret Monitor writes, “The Holderness Hunt was my first introduction to the world of post-ban fox hunting in the UK. Even having grown up in and always lived in countryside towns and villages I had no idea what really went on hidden behind these hedgerows and coverts. The countryside, with its rolling hills and panoramic views, used to have a romantic feel to it; however, I see now that those hills run with blood…”

 


 

Monitoring the Holderness

I sometimes join a small but determined group that focus on the Holderness Hunt. For too many years the Hunt was largely unwatched and able to kill foxes with impunity. Monitor presence stops kills, and it becomes clear when you see how the numbers of support and riders have dwindled in the past few years that these people are out for blood, not just a hack in the countryside. 

If monitors are on-site then hopefully the hunt’s day is ruined. Unfortunately, it is not always that simple and the Holderness have killed in our presence on a few occasions: we were able to get that on footage on, for example,  31/Dec/2019 and again on 04/March/2023 (which Protect the Wild reported on at /holderness-hunt-kills-fox-in-front-of-monitors-police-take-no-further-action-) and there are currently two Hunting Act investigations ongoing with the hunt which I cannot go into much detail of at the moment. There have also been quite a few occasions when we are certain they have killed when out of sight. 

We have seen many foxes to safety from their hounds but one fox killed is one too many, especially when you see the perverse joy these ‘hunters’ get from knowing a fox has been ripped apart. 

 

The Holderness Hunt and its masters

Based around the Northeast of England with a lineage they can trace back to the 1700s, the Holderness has one of the largest areas of land of any hunt available to them. The current huntsman is Tom Wright, formerly of the notorious Cheshire Forest Hunt. The current whip is Marcus Richardson – although after a pretty dismal season he is due to resign in April.

 

Huntsman Tom Wright and (for this season at least) whipper-in Marcus Richardson

 

The Hunt masters are William Bethell, Guy Postkitt, Christopher Richardson, and Charles Clark.

William Bethell is a major landowner in the Holderness area (that’s only due to extreme generational wealth, he deserves no credit). Bethell’s family have been masters of the Holderness Hunt for generations, and William inherited the Holderness from his father in the 1990s. He is said to be the one who makes most of the calls about how the hunt operates and many within the hunt and support are aware that it is William who keeps the Holderness hunting foxes and not trails: “The reason the Holderness are still hunting foxes is down to Mr Bethell”.

 

William Bethell, Holderness Hunt master and wannabe Don Juan

 

2012 farmer of the year, Guy Postkitt is one of the country’s largest carrot producers and has supplied produce to ASDA, Aldi, Walkers, and McCains to name a few. He also keeps it in the family and brings along his hapless son, Mark.

Mark is an infamous figure in the fox hunting world due to admitting to harassing three women in his local village of Kellington and because of a series of images of him holding the body of a savaged fox splashed all over the internet. He has repeatedly goaded activists using social media, including the image below from a Facebook post and included in the Daily Mail’s report linked to above.

 

Postkitt junior has been bounced from hunt to hunt with no one wanting to take him on full time, but he’s eventually found his way back to daddy’s. 

Charles Clark was said to be given the mastership at age 29 making him the youngest master ever. Charles owns land in the Selby area. Lastly, there is Christopher Richardson, another master/landowner. 

To be clear on how hunts operate, the masters don’t own all the land – their job is to liaise with and keep landowners sweet. Masters can however be landowners and often are. Each master will have their assigned areas where they are in charge of the day and often lead the field as the field master.

If a kill is to occur it is good practice to notify the police who the master in charge is as he should know where the trails have been laid. The huntsman is in control of the hounds and the huntsman is not always a hunt master.

Huntsmen and hunt masters traditionally wear red – unless you are the Holderness hunt and have taken to wearing tweed all the time to avoid being spotted. So much for being proud of your traditions. The Masters employ the huntsmen and other hunt staff. There is a hunt committee where bigger decisions are made and this committee will have a chairman. The chairman of the Holderness Hunt is millionaire Nic Marshall. He owns ResQ, a call center that promotes itself through a website plastered with a word salad of business buzzwords, but no mention of illegal fox hunting…

 

The Holderness and crime

The Holderness usually hunt on Wednesdays and Saturdays and we try to always be in attendance. Historically they hunted Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, but they changed their days to match with other Yorkshire-based hunts like the Middleton, the Sinnington and the Brocklesby Hunts hoping to spread us too thin to keep an eye on them. It didn’t work.

The Wednesday meet is normally for the hardcore hunters who desperately want the kill. William Bethell, Guy Postkitt, Charles Clark, Chris Richardson, Sally Rix (who when she’s not out looking for foxes finds time to juggle 59 Directorships according to Companies House), Amanda Good, Tithe Farm’s Emma Richardson (who has just the two Directorships to distract her from the serious business of hunting), Callum Goodwin, and support like Christine Heward and Sue Ellerington. 

 

Sally Rix, taking time off from her numerous Directorships to hunt

 

The weekend meets include the weekend warriors, including people like Charlie Greenwood, Ridings Equine Vet George Burns (who apparently when not at work can ‘often be found riding his trusty steed, Ronald’), Imogen Goodwin, Samantha Warkup, Sally Dearing & children’s book author Vicky Cowie (Clarke) who largely writes about horses but has also penned Melvin the Mole which on her website is promoted with the line “The menacing mole mounds on Major Hugh’s lawn are driving him mad. Can the Major put a stop to Melvin The Mole, once and for all?” Here’s an idea for the next book in the series: Freddie the Fox – “Freddie is vermin and a pest. Can the magnificent Holderness Hunt ride to the rescue and have their hounds teach Freddie a lesson he’ll never forget“?

The criminality begins as soon as they leave their kennels based in Etton, near Beverly. Holderness hunt lackey Christine Heward is often in tow to try and block our vehicle from following using all manner of dodgy driving. 

 

Christine Heward demonstrates her driving ‘skills’ by blocking a road junction

Heward is often a hazard to herself and other road users. We have footage of her driving well over solid white lines on blind corners, driving on the wrong side of the road at busy junctions, pulling out in front of cars, driving at a snail’s pace down single track roads causing road users to get stuck on both sides of her. All of this to stop us from finding where the Holderness is meeting. That doesn’t work either. The Holderness has been losing land at a dramatic rate, limiting them to a number of known meets, so we just check each site methodically until we find them again.

We arrive at the meets to be greeted by the sullen faces of the hunt supporters – a  group of people who pay to follow the hunt from the road in their vehicles on the off chance they can point out which way a fox broke to the huntsman. 

Like supporters of hunts up and down the country they’re not the brightest bunch, and have on several occasions told us how they support the killing of foxes and alluded to the fact that it is still the main goal of the Holderness Hunt. We do find solace in the fact that the average age of the hunt support is definitely right up there. Even if we fail to get a proper ban on hunting despite our best efforts, it is literally a dying tradition. 

With grudging acceptance of the fact they likely won’t see any action once we’ve turned up, the dismal ‘support’ will spend their days trying to hinder us. They love blocking public highways with their vehicles which has, on several occasions, led to heated exchanges with inconvenienced members of the public. They believe themselves to be private security for the hunt and will block gates and entrance ways from our monitors. 

 

Holderness Hunt support talks with police shortly after throwing his box of weed from the window

 

On a recent meet one of the hunt supporters threatened our monitors with a slingshot. Anyone can own a slingshot, but no one can threaten someone with one! The police were called out. When they arrived and searched the car the driver (Danny Lamb, pictured above) was seen throwing a box out of the vehicle window into the hedge. We found a box of weed, a grinder and some skins which the police bagged and took as evidence.

Supporters are often seen having their customary drink or two in the meet before leaving behind the wheel, and you can definitely add driving illegally under the influence of drugs to the litany of offences these idiots routinely commit.

The riders themselves aren’t much better behaved. In comparison with other hunts in the country the Holderness are fairly civil, but this hasn’t stopped our monitors being threatened and sexually harassed on a fairly regular basis. The creepiest offender is the previously discussed William Bethell. He has on more than one occasion asked our female monitors to take their clothes off and made lewd comments about their bodies. His odious behaviour makes our skin crawl. What is it about these old-school, unreconstructed clowns that makes them think they are so charming? Nothing immediately obvious to us, that’s for certain…

 

There has, on rare occasions, been physical violence from the Holderness Hunt. Caught on livestream, one of our monitors, while filming the hounds in the trailer, was grabbed by now ex-huntsman Tom Batten who attempted to wrestle him to the ground while whipper-in Rob Daniels tried to steal his phone. Assault and attempted theft if the courts were interested. And William Bethell and Guy Postkitt often (unsuccessfully) try to clip our monitors with their horses as they ride by: stupidly dangerous and which – again – could lead to an assault charge. 

As for our methods we take a fairly passive approach never trying to seize control of the hounds. Being there with cameras rolling is often enough to deter the hunt from a kill and in the case a kill does happen the fact that we don’t actively interfere with the hounds provides us a stronger case for prosecution. We also know that the chances of us turning the hounds back from live quarry is slim so we make sure the huntsman is well aware they are in pursuit of a fox. Any inaction from him to then control the hounds means he cannot argue that he simply wasn’t aware which is stupidly a valid defence against the broken hunting act legislation.

 

The Hunting

Hunting a fox with hounds is against the law (see below), but hunts often claim to be ‘trail laying’, putting down a scent trail in advance of the hunt for the hounds to follow. The Holderness is no exception. It’s all for show of course.

This season the Hunt employed BHSA poster boy for trail laying, Tom Wright, as huntsman. His ‘talents’ are wasted on the Holderness who seem to have no real interest in following an artificial trail. In fact, up until this season we haven’t seen them follow a single one. Supporters admit that the Holderness Hunt have only started trail laying this season due to pressure from monitors.  Seriously, just how hard would it be for a hunt to drag a rag behind a quad bike if they really wanted to ‘trail hunt’? 

The day normally follows classic hunting form. The hounds are sent into coverts, dykes, and areas where foxes are likely to be, places with undergrowth so thick that it would be impossible to lay a trail through anyway. Riders will take up point on the perimeter of such areas to scare breaking foxes back towards the hounds or to signal them to the huntsman. None of these practices can be justified under so-called legal ‘trail hunting’. 

 

Entrance of false earth found in Dalton Park

 

Quite often the coverts they flush contain an artificial earth. This is an underground chamber connected to the outside with two or more pipes acting as tunnels. One of these was found on Dalton Park Estate. Owned by Lord Hotham the estate includes a ‘traditional pheasant and partridge’ shoot that would surely want to keep foxes away? Why would landowners who allow a fox hunt on their land to allegedly ‘manage’ foxes want to keep the fox population artificially high? The answer would typically be – so that foxes will move in and breed, supplying the area with a fox population that can then be illegally hunted.

 

The Foxhounds

Foxhounds are the pride of any hunt. They take great care in carefully preserving a chosen lineage and standard of performance for their hounds. This being said the hunt also have a very strange relationship with the hounds – seeing them both as the pride of the hunt but also as just an expendable tool. Hounds are sent through very unforgiving terrain; diving into thick coverts and forced to squeeze through barbed wire, they often come out with lacerations. They are trained using fear-based techniques, and you see hunters carrying a whip which can be used if a hound doesn’t respond to their voice commands. 

One of the best well-kept secrets in hunting is what happens to the old or injured hounds or the misbehaving youngsters. 50% of hunting hounds don’t even make it to their 3rd season. They are killed for reasons such as their heads being too easily turned when hunting or they don’t have the prey drive necessary.  We have on video William Bethell telling us how the hounds are killed with a shot to the head.

‘Trail layer’ Tom Wright at a Boxing Day protest

 

Both the hounds and the horses are the often unspoken victims of hunting, subject to gruelling days at the hands of people who see them simply as a means to an end.

If the public really knew the truth of how hunting hounds are treated there would be uproar, however so much of this is hidden behind red brick kennel walls. There is very little literature available to the public on foxhound welfare from the BHSA and welfare checks aren’t carried out by any independent bodies. We were delighted then when we saw Protect the Wild’s animation “The Forgotten Foxhounds” at the end of last year. PTW tell us that animation has been viewed more than three million times now…

 

The police and legislation

We are quite fortunate to be under Humberside Police jurisdiction. The contrast is stark from times we’ve dealt with other forces such as North Yorkshire Police who are very much in the hunt’s pocket. We have a local rural taskforce (RTF) based in Driffield and they are committed to stopping wildlife crime with some of the highest figures of hare coursing prosecutions in the country. We understand the mistrust many groups have for the police and it is often warranted: however, we cooperate as much as we can with our RTF as they are our best chance at a prosecution. 

Our issue when it comes to prosecution does not lie in how the RTF handles the investigation, but rather in the Hunting Act 2004 itself. Our officers admit that to obtain a prosecution under that act is almost impossible. The omission of the word “reckless” when used for the pursuit of a mammal by hounds turns the legislation to toilet paper that the hunt use to regularly wipe their arse. Because of that omission we have to try to prove, beyond reasonable doubt, that the hunt intended to chase that mammal.

How do you prove intention? We have years of footage of the Holderness running hounds through areas likely to hide foxes with no trail, we have footage of hunt supporters expressing their intent to hunt foxes, we have riders on point around coverts when kills take place, and multiple foxes being pursued by their hounds. However all this is deemed insignificant. 

 

Holderness Hunt hounds killing a fox

 

The Hunting Act was corrupted at its time of conception by hunt lobbyists as admitted by Tony Blair itself. It is not fit to serve and needs to be rewritten entirely. This is why we support Protect the Wild’s Hunting of Mammals Bill to close the loopholes that were purposefully left and exploited in the old legislation and (finally) get a Proper Ban on Hunting.

Until that happens, well, me and others like me will be out in the countryside proving the hunt’s claims to be ‘hunting legally’ is nothing but a lie.