The Sandringham estate has hit back at allegations of cruelty made last month after a fox was shot on a driven day. The estate has criticised the fabricated account of the event, which was reported in a number of national newspapers.

The RSPCA, of which the Queen is patron, in its investigation into the event has spoken out to clear the estate and its employees of any acts of animal cruelty.

The Sandringham estate?s land agent Marcus O?Lone made a statement to ST outlining the incident and the subsequent investigation. It read: Most of the newspapers based their stories on the photographs provided by the press photographer Gerry Dawes. He reported at the time that, after the fox had been shot, it lay twitching on the ground until a beater clubbed it to death and then stamped on its head. This wholly fabricated account of the event caused a number of animal welfare organisations and individuals to lodge complaints with the RSPCA and to demand an inquiry on the basis that the fox had not been humanely despatched.

The RSPCA carried out a full inquiry into the incident, and afterwards stated: ?No offences have been detected.?

The fox?s carcase was sent to the Animal Health Trust, which conducted a post-mortem and provided a pathology report. The reported evidence concluded that: Death would have occurred very quickly. The trust also reported there was no evidence that the animal had been clubbed or stamped on.

Superintendent Tim Wass, the East Anglia and Midlands RSPCA national emergency response co-ordinator, summarised the report, saying: The inquiry was complicated by the fact that the original witness, the photographer, refused to co-operate by providing either a witness statement describing what he saw or the original photographs.

In his conclusion to the report, Superintendent Wass noted: All available evidence conclusively supports the notion that the photograph story, as reported and as used for the basis of the investigation, was exaggerated, embellished and designed to mislead the public.

A spokesman from the Sandringham estate, told ST : ?These false allegations have caused considerable distress to the beater concerned and it is unfortunate that, as a result, not only has public money been wasted but so has the police and the RSPCA?s time. It is regrettable that the beater, who was acting sensibly and entirely within the law, has been maligned in this way.?