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Hunt for £60,000 budgie smugglers after 350 birds stolen from Michael Freeborn
THIEVES have stolen £60,000 worth of budgies in a raid on a Hampshire home.
They broke into an aviary and took more than 350 show birds bred by national expert Michael Freeborn.
He believes the creatures – some as young as six months – will be smuggled abroad and sold. It is the latest in a string of high-value show bird thefts across Hampshire revealed by the Daily Echo.
Parrots, macaws, canaries and finches valued at thousands of pounds were targeted in five raids last year that were believed to have been linked. Devastated Mr Freeborn, 74, discovered his prize collection of budgerigars had been taken yesterday morning when he went to check on them in their large cage less than 30ft from his bungalow.
He told the Daily Echo it would have taken a gang of three or four thieves with a large net and a van to carry out the theft.
He said: “The stud value of these birds is around £60,000 and they are irreplaceable.
Even if I do get them back, which is very unlikely, they will probably be too traumatised to do anything with.
“When I went down to the aviary at 4.45am the outside security light didn’t come on and when I went to put the key in the lock, I realised the lock wasn’t there and the door had been jemmied open and all the birds were gone. I was devastated.”
Mr Freeborn, who is the founder of Freeborn Garages, began keeping budgerigars as pets when he was 14 years old and has won scores of trophies with his show birds over the years.
In 1963 he started breeding them himself and all the stolen birds were descendants of a pair that he bred from 50 years ago.
He was not sure exactly how many budgies were in the cage near his Nursling home but knows it was somewhere between 350 and 400.
Mr Freeborn, who is a member of the South Hampshire Budgerigar Club and a national judge with the Budgerigar Society, said he believed the gang escaped across nearby fields with the birds after removing them from the 26ft by 12ft aviary.
“It would have taken three or four people at least three hours to remove and take them to a van. It is possible they were stolen to order.
“But whoever stole them would have to cut all the distinctive rings off the birds and then nobody would buy them,”
he added. “I think the gang’s aim is to get them abroad and sell them.
The police are cracking down on this but there are some unscrupulous people out there who don’t care if they destroy people’s lives and hobbies.
There is a ban on all feathered livestock going abroad and people need a licence to export them from Britain.”
Hampshire police are investigating.
Asked whether it was possible the gang would take the birds overseas, a police spokesman said: “We couldn’t discount it but it’s not all that likely as they may lose a lot of the stock so it wouldn’t be that worthwhile to them.”
Anyone with information about the theft should contact Romsey police on 101.
Mounting number of thefts
THEFTS of rare and high value birds are soaring across Hampshire, experts have warned.
Last year six pet parrots worth up to £4,500 were stolen from an aviary near Romsey.
Two macaws and two pairs of African greys were snatched overnight from the Hansard Pet Centre in Awbridge by someone breaking padlocks to gain access.
Some of the birds had been sitting on eggs and the chicks inside died.
Charlie, a blue-and-gold macaw, and Bobby, a greenwinged macaw, were worth £1,250 each while the African greys were worth around £500 each.
Police are urging breeders and pet owners to remain vigilant and secure their properties and land.
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