Fanatical collector of wild bird's egg jailed for six months


Last updated at 23:48 03 January 2008

A roofer with an "addiction" to collecting bird eggs was jailed for six months yesterday.

Gregory Wheal, 44, received the maximum possible sentence after police found four peregrine falcon eggs and six raven eggs at his home.

A court heard how Wheal's "obsession" has dominated his life for more than 20 years.

He has previously been caught taking raven, peregrine falcon, golden eagle, whimbrel and hundreds of wild bird eggs, making him Britain's most convicted bird egg collector.

His latest arrest came in June last year after police found the eggs in mobile phone boxes and egg boxes in the bedroom of his Coventry home.

Climbing irons, abseiling equipment and detailed maps of nesting locations were also discovered.

Sentencing him, the chairman of Coventry Magistrates Richard Dawe said: "You have caused offence to a large section of society. You are clearly aware of the law but you have shown a blatant and persistent disregard for the law."

Prosecutors said Wheal had admitted he had an obsession with collecting bird eggs and that he even called it an addiction.

It was Wheal's ninth conviction in connection with egg collecting and in January 2006 he was jailed for four months for possessing 75 eggs.

There are only around 7,500 pairs of ravens and 1,350 pairs of peregrine falcons left in Britain.

Mark Thomas, an RSPB investigations officer, said outside court: "The man is a major threat to Britain's rarest bird eggs.

"If he continues to collect he will stop these rare birds from expanding."

He added: "No bird is safe if Wheal is set free."

Wheal apologised for what he had done.

He pleaded guilty last November to three charges of possession of the two sets of eggs and possession of egg collecting paraphernalia.