Prince Harry questioned by police after rare bird is shot
Published 31/10/2007 | 08:10
Prince Harry and a close friend have been questioned by police after two rare birds of prey were killed while they were out shooting on the royal family's Sandringham estate.
The pair were thought to be the only people hunting on the Norfolk estate last Wednesday when witnesses at a nature reserve on the edge of the land saw two hen harriers shot down as they flew over.
Hen harriers are rare in England where it is estimated there are only 20 breeding pairs. They are legally protected and the killing of one carries a six-month jail sentence or a £5,000 fine.
The prince's friend was thought to be a member of the Van Cutsem family. The two men were quickly identified to Norfolk police by members of the Prince of Wales's staff. Both denied involvement in the shooting. A Clarence House spokeswoman said: "Because Prince Harry and a friend were in the area at the time, the police have ... asked them if they have any information that could help. Unfortunately, they have no knowledge of the alleged incident."
The shooting was seen by a member of staff from Natural England at the body's Dersingham Bog nature reserve, and witnesses reported watching the hen harriers being shot one after the other.
Hen harriers are the country's most persecuted bird of prey, said the RSPB, and were often shot by gamekeepers because they feed on game birds such as pheasants and grouse being reared for shoots. A spokesman said: "The population should be ten times higher than it is."
Norfolk police are continuing their investigation.