A man caught smuggling 14 un-hatched Peregrine Falcon eggs worth £70,000 in a belt made out of SOCKS was jailed for 30 months today.
Jeffrey Lendrum, 48, strapped the belt – which was tied together with string – to his stomach in order to incubate them before boarding a flight to the Middle East.
He had stolen the eggs from four nests in Glamorgan, south Wales, and planned to sell them for up to £70,000 on the black market to a wealthy Sheikh.
But he was arrested in the departure lounge at Birmingham International Airport by police who feared he was a terrorist.
Yesterday (Thurs) Lendrum pleaded guilty to ‘dealing with goods with intent to avoid prohibition or restrictions’ under section one of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.
Sentencing him at Warwick Crown Court, Judge Christopher Hodson told him: ”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.
”I adopt these words to express the gravity of what you did.
”You have had two previous warnings of the consequences of dealing with wild protected birds and now you have come to the UK and offended.
”There can be no explanation of your criminal actions other than commercial profit.
”The aggravating features of this case are the impact on the environment and the commercial nature of your activities.”
The court heard Lendrum was caught on May 3 this year at Birmingham International Airport while he waited for a flight to Dubai.
Lendrum, who was such a regular flyer he even qualified for the Emirates Gold Membership card, asked to take a shower in the departure lounge.
But an eagle-eyed cleaner became suspicious when no towels were used and the floor of the shower room was still dry so called the police.
Airline chiefs feared a possible terrorist attack and armed officers swooped in to arrest Lendrum.
Nigel Wilkins, prosecuting, said: ”Clearly this was not a terrorist situation.
”What officers did find was a number of Peregrine eggs which had been placed in socks, tied with string and strapped to the defendant.
”When the defendant was first questioned about the eggs he claimed they were chicken eggs he had purchased from Waitrose.”
He added that Lendrum then tried to convince cops he intended to use them to play a joke on his father in Johannesburg.
He added: ”He also said he had strapped them to himself because he had heard they were a remedy for back pain, needless to say officers were not convinced.”
Lendrum was found to have an insulated bag which he had planned to transfer the eggs to after boarding the plane.
When officers searched his car they discovered an incubator, egg wrappings, a backpack containing climbing equipment and a Satellite Navigation system.
Officers also searched a garage in Towcester, Northants., which Lendrum used as a lock-up which included a walkie-talkie, a viewing scope and even a golf ball collector he used to pluck the eggs from the nests he robbed.
Officers gave the eggs to wildlife experts and 12 of them hatched, with one dying later.
The remaining 11 are all in the process of being released back into the wild in Scotland.
The court heard there are only 1,400 breeding pairs of Peregrine falcons in the UK making them one of the more endangered species.
After the hearing, Andy McWilliam, investigations officer with the National Wildlife Crime Unit, said: ”Lendrum is the highest level of wildlife criminal.
”I have no doubt he had planned to sell these eggs to a buyer in the Middle East.
”These eggs are highly sought after and falconry is up there with horse racing.”
Lendrum was jailed for jailed for 30 months for the ‘dealing’ charge and four months for a charge of ‘taking the eggs of a wild bird’, which he also admitted.
Both sentences will run concurrently and he was told he would serve half his sentence minus the 106 days he has already spent in custody.
Lendrum had previously been fined £500 with a further £500 costs in 1986 after he supplied six eagle eggs to a dealer in Stafford, Staffs.
In 2002 he was also fined $7,500 Canadian dollars (£4,660) after he was caught with seven Peregrine and Gyr falcon eggs.