Two men jailed after stealing exotic and valuable parrots from farm near Wisbech

TWO men have been jailed after admitting stealing exotic and valuable parrots from a farm near Wisbech.

Trevor Pitts, 36, and James Collins, 34, travelled from their homes in South Yorkshire using hire vehicles in order to steal the rare birds in 2008.

The court heard the pair stole 17 parrots worth up to �130,000 from aviaries at an isolated farm in Friday Bridge overnight on September 13 and 14, 2008.

Ten were Red-tailed Amazons worth about �100,000, two were Blue-fronted Amazons, two Vinaceous Amazons and one a Cuban Amazon.

The birds are very rare, in the wild and in captivity.

The pair tried to carry out a similar burglary at a farm in Ashford, Kent, in October, 2008, but left empty handed after attempting to steal a rare parrot worth �750.

They also planned to target a rural property where parrots were bred in Aylsham, Norfolk, but never carried out the raid.

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Both men were arrested on the evening of November 4, 2008, at an isolated location in Nowton, near Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, close to the home of a boxer dog breeder.

They were in a hire van from Sheffield which contained items including pet carriers, mobile phones and a sat nav device. Further examination revealed the device had been close to the scenes of the burglary at Friday Bridge and the attempted burglary in Ashford, Kent.

Feathers discovered in the pet carriers were sent for forensic examination and were found to be from two different Blue-fronted Amazon parrots and a Cuban Amazon.

Inquiries with the hire firm in Sheffield also revealed the vans had covered distances fitting the locations in Cambridgeshire, Suffolk and Kent.

Both men initially denied the charges against them but last month Pitts, of Scowerdons Close, Hackenthorpe, Sheffield, pleaded guilty to four counts of conspiracy to commit burglary, and Collins, of Camden Grove, Maltby, admitted three counts of conspiracy to commit burglary.

Yesterday (November 22), at Cambridge Crown Court, Pitts was jailed for 33 months, to run concurrently on each count, while Collins was jailed for 40 months, to run concurrently on each count.

Detective Sergeant Dave York, who led the investigation, said: “The birds from Friday Bridge have yet to be recovered.

“Some of the Red-tailed Amazons were bred here by the owner and are effectively priceless because there are so few left in the world.

“We are still making enquiries in an attempt to trace these birds. The stolen parrots have distinctive plumage and in some cases may also be identifiable to the victim through DNA testing so I would appeal to anyone with any information about their whereabouts to contact Cambridgeshire police.

“They are endangered and are very rare and their breeder was very upset after they were taken. The trauma suffered by the birds in the manner of their theft is likely to have caused them injury or even their demise, thus reducing the number of the species further.

“The capture and conviction of the two defendants has been a time consuming and at times complex investigation and the sentence given today reflects the seriousness of the offence and should serve as a warning to others thinking of committing this type of crime.”

John Hayward, co-ordinator for the National Theft Register for Endangered Species, said: “Since the arrest of the two offenders, we have worked closely with Det Sgt York in a highly successful partnership which resulted in the convictions yesterday.

“This case was without doubt one of the most significant investigations in recent years involving the theft of so many highly endangered exotic birds. “The criminal activity not only resulted in so many endangered parrots being stolen but also the devastation of so many breeding programmes.

“Many of these parrots are extremely rare in the wild and those that are breeding in captivity are vital to the continuance of the species.

“Despite the sentencing, we are still endeavouring to track down the stolen birds. These particular crimes not only impact on the victims but there are also severe welfare issues involved as no doubt many of the birds would not have survived the trauma of being removed from their surroundings.”

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