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Burden admitted nine charges, including killing and attempting to kill buzzards, killing badgers and illegally setting eight spring traps.

Sentencing, chair of the magistrates at Telford Magistrates Court Claire Brentnall said: “We are satisfied that the offence is so serious that custody is the only sentence. We regard this as a very serious offence and the purpose of this sentence is punishment.”

She added that the bench had taken into account the defendant’s age and his obvious remorse, before ordering him to complete 150 hours of community service and pay £200 in costs.

Mr Burden’s offences came to light after two other gamekeepers working on the estate witnessed him shooting buzzards and clubbing to death badgers that were caught in snares. They contacted the RSPB, prompting an investigation to be launched.

The court heard that the police had seized a coded diary, which the witnesses claimed Burden had written in, containing a tally of the animals that he killed. The witnesses alleged that the tally had included protected species, with entries relating to 102 buzzards, 40 ravens and 37 badgers.

The investigations officer for the RSPB, Mark Thomas, said: “This is a truly horrifying case. Wildlife on this estate was killed brutally and systematically.
“The lack of respect for nature, the disregard for the law and the arrogance involved in these crimes was total.”

He added: “Huge thanks are due to the gamekeepers who came forward and let us know what was happening at this estate. Their actions were brave and public-spirited, and show the decent, law-abiding face of gamekeeping.”