Belfast Telegraph

Alleged killing of nearly 60 racing pigeons by hunt club hounds like a 'bloodbath', court hears

By Alan Erwin

The alleged killing of nearly 60 racing pigeons by hounds from a Co Armagh hunt club was like a "bloodbath", the High Court heard today.

The birds' owner claimed he encountered a scene of chaos and devastation as he tried to chase a pack of up to 15 dogs from the property in Loughgall.

Pigeon fancier Maurice Weir is seeking £60,000 in damages over the alleged destruction of some of his prized stock.

His lawsuit is being defended by the Countryside Alliance, with its lawyers accusing him of a fabricated and fraudulent claim.

No hounds from the hunt came into contact with the birds on the day, the Alliance contends.

Proceedings centre on an alleged incident near Mr Weir's Kinnego Road home in February 2009.

According to his case he was having lunch after vaccinating his stock when animals from the Kinnego Grange and Canary Hunt Club broke in.

"The hounds were running around in the yard when I went out," he said.

"I went to chase them, but then they were under the aviaries, in the lofts and it was a devastation.

"It was a bloodbath, the pigeons were flying everywhere."

He estimated that 14-15 dogs were on the premises as he tried to drive them back with a stick.

"It was pure chaos. I don't even want to think about it, the way the pigeons were all killed."

Mr Weir says he lost 59 birds, including those highly sought for their ability to fly home from as far away as France.

At the time he was trying to start up a small stud business, he told Madam Justice McBride.

Questioned by his barrister, Michael Stitt QC, Mr Weir insisted the aviaries were all secure before the hounds allegedly entered.

In a claim for trespass and negligence, he told the court the hounds had his birds in their scent.

"It was a quarry to them, they were going to get in there," he said.

"I had to run and save some of the ones (pigeons) that were still alive, they kept hanging around because they could smell their scent."

Police were contacted but informed him it was a matter for the local council's dog warden, the court heard.

Mr Weir claimed a "fairly high up" PSNI officer told him at the time: 'If this happened to me I would have been shooting those hounds'.

The pigeon fancier, who had a past involvement in hunting, said he had handed in his shotguns for safety reasons.

"I had gone away from shooting, I had gone away from hunting and I was concentrating on pigeon racing and trying to build up a pigeon stud into a small business."

In cross-examination, David Ringland QC, for the Countryside Alliance, contended that he had previously claimed up to 20 hounds broke in.

But Mr Weir insisted: "They were scurrying around. It was an estimate."

The case continues.

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