Gyrocopter pilot acquitted of killing huntsman
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, April 2010:
BIRMINGHAM, U.K.–A Birmingham Crown Court jury on March 17,
2010 acquitted anti-fox hunting gyrocopter pilot Bryan Griffiths of
alleged manslaughter by gross negligence in connection with the March
9, 2009 death of Warwickshire Hunt owl keeper Trevor Morse at Long
Marston airfield. Morse, 48, was killed when the gyrocopter
propeller vertically cleaved his head.
The Hunting Act of 2004 banned hunting with dogs, but with
many exemptions, including a provision allowing the use of dogs to
flush out prey for falconers. Traditional fox hunts have continued
since then by carrying raptors, including owls, who would not
normally hunt by daylight.
Griffiths, 55, of Wiltshire Close, Bedsworth,
Warwickshire, had since 2006 been flying hunt observation missions
with John Curtin, 49, who more than 20 years ago was “jailed for
two years for planning to dig up the remains of the 10th Duke of
Beaufort and send the head to the Princess Royal,” reported Steve
Bird of the London Times.
Curtin later “led campaigns at Huntingdon Life Sciences’
laboratories and was questioned by police in connection with robbing
the grave of Gladys Hammond, a relative of owners of a farm breeding
guinea-pigs for experiments,” Bird added. The jury was not told
about Curtin’s history.
“Griffiths’s defence team said Morse tried to grab Curtin
shortly before take-off,” Bird said, “raising the possibility that
he had been recognised.”
The altercation started, the jury heard, after Warwickshire
hunt master Antony Spencer organized a scheme to keep the gyrocopter
from taking off again after it landed to refuel. Morse and another
hunt member, Julie Sargeant, engaged in a “white-knuckle” race to
the airfield, Sargeant testified. Morse, a much larger man than
either Griffiths or Curtain, then stood in front of the gyrocopter,
taking photographs, and called Spencer.
Model airplane flyer Michael Tipping, an uninvolved witness,
testified that Morse was “intrusive and aggressive. The pilot told
me that he thought there was a gang coming. He was rushing around,
desperate to get away. He started to look really nervous. The pilot
announced in a loud voice, ‘Keep clear of the propeller.'”
Peter Bunce, 70, who brought 40 gallons of fuel for the
gyrocopter, videotaped the confrontation. Griffiths put just 10
gallons in the gyrocopter tank before trying to take off.
“The video showed that Griffiths twice motioned for Morse to
move aside,” Bird wrote. The video also captured Bunce asking Morse
to step aside as the gyrocopter advanced. Then Morse was hit.
Griffiths called an ambulance and police before Spencer arrived,
followed by South Shropshire Hunt master Otis Ferry–he son of rock
star Bryan Ferry–and his girlfriend Francesca Nimmo.