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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

MYSTERY DEATHS: Richard Muirhead looks into the archives


Whilst looking for unusual animal stories involving animals in Israel/ Palestine I came across the following event, as reported in the Palestine Post for April 2nd 1934. Granted, it is the day after April Fools Day but I still think it is worth recording:

Strange Animal Deaths Continue

I mentioned last week the mysterious poisonings of birds over Dorset. More birds have been found mysteriously poisoned and over 400 cases have now come to light. In addition to rooks, magpies, and jackdaws which have fallen, cats, a dog and a fox are among the victims. A farm hand said that the fox was a pitiful sight. It crept into the farm yard, collapsed and died. Captain Kent, who rents the shooting at Melcombe Horsey, said that with the police he had collected 214 bodies of birds. When out shooting he saw 50 birds fall in ten minutes. He believed they were poisoned by strychnine, as they died so quickly. Mr Vincent spoke of the danger to hounds unless all the bodies were collected, as the poison would remain in the bones for six months.

Mr Julius Caesar ( ? O.K. maybe it is a hoax, but I can`t be 100% sure!) a chemist in the county, said: "If the birds are being poisoned by agricultural poison the mystery should soon by (sic) cleared up. The principal poisons used in agriculture are antimony, strychnine, arsenic and hellebore. This is not the season for their general use for ground dressing. Poisons used for the destruction of vermin are strychnine and phosphorous.”

Dorset Police have issued a warning which runs:

“Following an analysis of one of the rooks found dead in the Melcombe Horsey district it has been revealed that the body contained a deadly poison. People are asked not to eat any dead bird found in the area.” An official of the R.S.P.C.A. in London said that the Society was conducting an investigation in conjunction with the Dorset Police. (1)

Now, if this is not an April Fools Day joke, it is interesting because it may not be a straightforward case of animal poisoning. Sometimes animals do die suddenly for no apparent reason, as will be seen in Part Two.

1 comment:

theo paijmans said...

Hi Richard, I checked the digital archives of the Palestine Post, but there's no mention of this intriguing article in its April 2, 1934 edition... You sure that that's the right date and/or publication? Didn't find it mentioned in other editions of the Palestine Post either.

Sincere regards,