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The Puzzling Case of Penmead Pride

December 30, 2010, 12:50 p.m., EDT

A pair of budgerigarsBack in August 2010, budgerigar breeder Andrew Pooley, who lives in the far southwest of the U.K., in the county of Cornwall, came home from work in August to a scene of appalling carnage in his birdroom. There on the floor, lying dead as the result of apparently having been stamped on was his champion bird, Penmead Pride, while the birdroom itself was eerily quiet. The person responsible had made off with another 21 of Andrew’s top birds.

The shockingly callous nature of the crime led to extensive press coverage at the time.

''The person or people who did this must have known they were there and knew exactly which ones to take; they only targeted my show team. They all had identity rings around their legs but this person is obviously an expert who would know how to remove them--leaving me with no way to prove they are mine,'' a heart-broken Andrew told The Daily Telegraph, which was just one of the country’s national newspapers to report the story.

The Budgerigar Society suggested that Andrew’s birds might have been stolen and spirited abroad to mainland Europe, but no leads emerged during the next four months, leaving Devon & Cornwall Police baffled. After 40 years in the hobby and still tormented by the tragic death of his most successful budgerigar, which had won more than 20 Challenge Certificates, Andrew now to the U.K.’s top stolen bird sleuth for further help. Retired detective John Hayward runs the U.K.’s National Pet Theft Register, and is used to reuniting victims of avian crime with their precious birds.

At a major press conference held at the local church in the village where Andrew lives, John suggested that, in his view, the criminal responsible might be found closer to home. The budgerigars themselves may not even have been taken out of Cornwall. John believes that someone who may have visited Andrew previously--and knew the layout of his birdroom and when he was likely to be out--was most probably responsible. He also confirmed that the theft was carried out by a person who was very familiar with budgerigars, able to recognize the best birds and catch them in the aviary, with minimum disturbance.

Sadly though, as yet, in spite of extensive further coverage on the national news bulletins, the person responsible for the demise of Penmead Pride and the theft of his flock members still remains unknown. This case sheds a spotlight on a murky area, with budgerigar fanciers now having to spend large sums on security, in an attempt to safeguard their stock. There are typically about 20 such thefts each year in the U.K., with top class champion budgerigars being valued at $6,000 or more.

Unfortunately, what makes it particularly difficult when seeking to retrieve stolen budgerigars is that, generally, they are not actually taken to be sold. Instead, they are prized for their pedigree and their breeding value. The resulting progeny from illicit crosses of this type can then be exhibited and sold in due course, with very little risk of any link back to the original theft.

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