Prolific egg thief Daniel Lingham sentenced for third time for stealing thousands of wild bird eggs in Norfolk

A prolific egg collector has avoided a prison sentence after he stole almost 3,000 wild bird eggs from their nests.

Daniel Lingham, 71, of Norfolk, was sentenced to 12 weeks in jail - suspended for 18 months - today, after a police raid of his home on 25 July last year uncovered 2,995 wild bird eggs - with some hidden behind a bath panel and others hoarded in his bedroom.

He previously pleaded guilty to five offences at Norwich Magistrates Court on 20 February.

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Lingham was also ordered to comply with a 12-month mental health treatment requirement including 15 rehabilitation activity days. He was also told to pay £183 in compensation to the British Trust for Ornithology, £145 in court costs and a £154 victim surcharge.

He covered his face with his coat hood as he left the court building, and told reporters "no comment".

This is the third time Lingham has been sentenced for egg theft offences.

In 2005 he was jailed for 10 weeks after police found 4,000 wild bird eggs inside his home. In 2018 he was jailed for 18 weeks and given a 10-year criminal behaviour order after he was found in possession of more than 5,000 eggs.

The offences he was convicted of this time included breaching the behaviour order.

It bans him from entering Holt Lowes nature reserve, where he was caught stealing eggs on a wildlife trap camera, between 1 February and 1 October, as well as other bird sites nationwide, many of which appeared on the labels of his stolen eggs.

Norfolk Police were able to identify him in the trap camera footage on 9 June 2023 due to his distinctive walking stick.

They raided his home on 5 July and found 2,429 native bird eggs protected by the Wildlife and Countryside Act.

There were also 546 eggs from birds on the red conservation list, including the Linnet, Green Finch, Yellowhammer, and House Sparrow, and a further 548 from birds on the amber list.

Officers also found specialist books, binoculars, and an egg-blowing kit, enabling them to charge him with "possessing articles capable of being used to identify and take eggs".

In his police interview, Lingham claimed the eggs had been taken before his conviction in 2018, but their appearance and how they were stored suggested otherwise.

He said he had found some of them at a house clearance in Essex and was looking for adders and tiger beetles in Holt Lowes but was "tempted" by the Nightjar eggs due to his addiction, which he described as a mental health issue.

PC Chris Shelley, from the force's rural crime team, said: "Egg collecting should be a hobby that is confined to the history books having been made illegal in 1954.

"Thankfully there are very few individuals now committing this crime but these few, including Lingham, cause a huge amount of harm to thousands of birds including some of our most at risk species - in this case Nightjar, Linnet, Yellow Hammer and House Sparrows - to name just a few."

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Tom Grose, investigations officer for the RPSB, added: "The scale of egg theft which Lingham has committed over the last 20 years is shocking.

"Sadly, his obsession with collecting wild birds' eggs has ultimately resulted in thousands of breeding birds, which have invested huge amounts of energy into rearing young, to fail.

"We're relieved that this type of crime is now relatively rare in the UK, but this latest case has revealed that the breeding success of the Nightjar, a species of conservation concern, has again been targeted in Norfolk by Lingham's illegal actions."