Two peregrine falcon chicks. Fourteen eggs were snatched from the wild by Jeffrey Lendrum. Photograph: Owen Humphries/PA
Da Associated Press
Man jailed after being caught with 14 eggs – worth £70,000 – strapped to his chest at Birmingham airport
A businessman was jailed for 30 months today after he admitted trying to smuggle rare peregrine falcon eggs to Dubai.
Jeffrey Lendrum, 48, was caught with 14 eggs strapped to his body at Birmingham international airport on 3 May after he was spotted acting suspiciously by a cleaner. He had wrapped the eggs, worth £70,000, in socks before taping them to his chest.
At Warwick crown court today, Lendrum, of Towcester, Northamptonshire, admitted one count of trying to export the eggs illegally and a second charge of stealing them from a nest in south Wales.
The court was told the 14 eggs were destined for falconries in Dubai, where breeders will pay thousands of pounds on the black market for eggs snatched from the wild.
Lendrum has previous convictions in Zimbabwe and Canada for stealing rare eggs and once abseiled from a helicopter to reach a remote nest.
A former member of the Rhodesian SAS, the businessman developed dare-devil techniques, once abseiling off a cliff to reach a nest, while on another occasion he lowered himself from a helicopter in Canada to reach his prize. Investigators said today it was the such first case in the UK for 20 years.
He was caught when a cleaner working in the Emirates airline's business-class lounge spotted him dashing in and out of the shower. When she went to investigate, the shower had not been used and she called in counterterrorist officers, fearing the defendant had a sinister purpose.
The court was told there were only 1,400 breeding pairs of peregrine falcons in the UK and the birds were regarded as one of the most endangered species. Jailing Lendrum, Judge Christopher Hodson said: "These were eggs you had removed from the wild in Wales and you would have reduced the number of these high-level endangered species in the wild, birds which enhance the attraction of the countryside to all.
"I quote the words of a lord justice of appeal [Lord Justice Sedley] when he says, 'Environmental crime, if established, strikes not only at a locality and its population but in some measure to the planet and its future. Nobody should be allowed to doubt its seriousness or to forget that one side of the environmental story is always untold.'"