A GAMEKEEPER who works on Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Hampshire estate has been fined for setting a trap which killed a protected owl.

Mark Stevens admitted two charges of using spring traps without failing to prevent a non-target species being caught.

But the traps had not been set on the Sydmonton Court Estate which is owned by Sir Andrew, Richard Atkins, Stevens' solicitor said after the case.

Daily Echo:

A tawny owl similar to the one killed in the trap

He set the trap in Kingsclere last August to target squirrels stealing food from a nearby pheasant pen but it caught and killed a protected tawny owl.

Mark Gammon, prosecuting at Basingstoke Magistrates’ Court, said walker Ed McBride came across the bird.

He said: “As he walked along he heard a flapping sound and saw an owl caught in one of these traps, the owl was hanging upside down as the trap had been secured to the post by a line of blue washing line.''

He said that Mr McBride spent 10 minutes freeing the bird and contacted the RSPB when he managed to release it into the pen.

Mr Gammon added that the spring trap was an approved trap but had not been set properly with a cage to prevent unintended animals and birds from getting caught.

Mr Atkins, defending, said that Stevens had set both with an insufficient cage although this cage was not found by the RSPB officers on the trap which caught the owl.

He added: ''Everyone who knows him accepts that this was an accident.''

Stevens, who volunteers as a part-time gamekeeper at Lord Lloyd Webber's estate, was fined £700.