Many of the elements were familiar both from television whodunits and real-life murder cases — a bereaved man making a fresh appeal for information and offering a cash reward to help trace the killer or killers, while a tough old police detective sat alongside to comfort, encourage and offer his own theory about the crime.
What made this heartfelt appeal different was the victim. Not a friend or relative, but a prized budgerigar called Penmead Pride.
The death of Penmead Pride made headlines around the world in August. Breeder Andrew Pooley, 58, returned to his aviary the evening before the Cornwall Budgerigar Show to find his beloved bird and a second one had been killed — stamped to death — and 21 other birds, valued at ￡2,000 (US$3,127), had been stolen.
It was thought that a jealous rival had stolen the birds and killed Penmead Pride, who had been crowned champion at the county show last year.
Four months on, the culprit has not been traced.
Pooley, from Delabole in Cornwall, spoke about the agony of finding his champion budgie dead and announced he would offer a reward of about ￡200 for information leading to the other birds’ safe return or to the arrest and conviction of the culprit.
“Either somebody hates me a lot and wanted to kill that bird to hurt me or they’ve accidentally stepped on the birds. You can’t explain to somebody how you feel. All my life I’ve been trying to breed a bird like this and I eventually got there,” Pooley said. “I picked it up in my hand and I just couldn’t believe that somebody had killed that bird — it’s like me losing one of my children. All I want him to do is put the birds in cages, tell us where to go and pick them up.”
Pooley is being helped by former Thames Valley Police detective John Hayward, who now works as a private detective specializing in tracing lost and stolen exotic birds.
“All I need is one telephone call to tell me where the birds are, anonymously or otherwise. We want the birds, the birds always come first. All are top exhibition birds, comprising two blue and 19 green of various shades,” Hayward said.
Hayward said it was not a “casual” crime. The thief had targeted the best birds and left the ones that were not so valuable.
“Whoever got into that bird house knew exactly which birds of 60-odd there to steal. The thief is obviously a very knowledgeable person when it comes to the identification of specific birds,” he said.
Pooley said he would not rest until he had found the birds.
“I’m never going to give up trying to find the person who did this. Whatever it takes, I’m going to find that person,” Pooley said.