A POLICE officer has described the disturbing scene he discovered when investigating reports of badger baiting on remote farmland near York.

Sgt Paul Stephenson found the body of a dead badger and badger foetuses after police were informed that a gang of men had watched badgers being ripped apart by dogs on the land between Scrayingham and Howsham Bridge, he told Scarborough Magistrates’ Court.

After digging into a patch of land that he noticed had been disturbed but apparently recovered with sods of grass, Sgt Stephenson said he found the body of a pregnant female badger four feet under the ground.

Post-mortem examinations of the two badgers have found that one had died from gunshot wounds after a sustained attack by dogs, and the other had been “torn to pieces and bled to death”.

Eight men have been accused of wilfully killing a badger, digging out and interfering with a sett, hunting a wild animal with dogs, and causing unnecessary suffering to an animal.

When first arriving at the scene Sgt Stephenson said some of the men had told him they had permission to be on the land. He said: “They were cocky, they were flippant. They would not tell me what had gone on. They said they had not killed a badger but would not say more than that.”

Sgt Stephenson said that as he had found a badger tail, he suspected there was a possibility a third badger had been killed but he was unable to find a body.

Cross examining Sgt Stephenson, Clive Rees suggested there were other people at the scene who were not apprehended. He also suggested that injuries found on the dogs owned by some of the men may have been caused by the animals fighting one another.

Six of the men have pleaded not guilty to the charges: Alan Alexander, 32, of Bramham Close, York; William Edward Anderson, 26 of Hillside, Cropton Lane, Pickering; James Henry Doyle, 34 of Westfield Avenue, Knottingley; Richard Simpson, 37, of Wains Road, York; Paul Ian Tindall, 33 of Bramham Grove, York; and a 17-year-old York youth who cannot be named for legal reasons.

Two other men, Christopher Martin Holmes, 28, of Bell Farm Avenue, York, and Malcolm David Warner, 28, of Princess Drive, York, pleaded guilty to jointly wilfully killing a badger, digging for badgers, and interfering with a sett, and had their cases adjourned until January 10. Both were granted unconditional bail.

Police were alerted to reports of badger baiting following a 999 call from wildlife artist Robert Fuller.

The trial continues.