Above: Leonard Devall, 35, admitted to keeping wild goldfinches (example pictured) in his home © Shutterstock.com/colin robert varndell


A MAN FROM Kent has admitted to handling British birds and canaries stolen from a fancier who had died just days before the theft, as well as three other birdkeepers.

Leonard Devall, 35, of Snodland, made a guilty plea at Maidstone Crown Court in March to four charges of handling stolen birds in Pembury, Aylesford, Chatham and Deal.

The exhibition-quality birds, including Siberian goldfinches, linnets, canaries and common redpolls, were taken from aviaries between January and March last year.

Mr Devall also admitted breaching the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 by keeping nine wild goldfinches at his home.

One of the fanciers targeted by the crime spree was the late Gary Cheeseman, who had sadly lost his battle with a long-term illness just four days before the theft of his birds (News, March 28, 2018).

Crossbills, chaffinches, mealy redpolls, goldfinches and mosaic canaries were stolen from Mr Cheeseman’s birdroom and aviary in Aylesford on March 15, 2018.

Mr Cheeseman was awell-liked fancier, prolific on the show scene and along-standing member of Walthamstow& Chingford CBS. At the time of the theft,club secretary and
friend Glenn Lewingdon said:“ S o m e thieving low-lives b r o k e into Gary’s shed and aviary while his family are still grieving. This was not an o p p o r t u n i s t i c theft, this was planned!”

It was only the birds that were targeted; there was no damage to Mr Cheeseman’s birdroom and his good quality birdkeeping equipment was not touched. On hearing about Mr Devall’s court appearance another good friend of Mr Cheeseman,

Bernard Williams, told Cage & Aviary Birds: “It is great that this man has been caught and hopefully the sentence will reflect the crime: not only stolen birds, but years of work producing your own line of birds ruined.

“In addition, the stress and anguish caused to Janice Cheeseman, who was also trying to cope with the loss of her husband. I feel for all the birdkeepers who
had birds stolen.”

Mr Devall’s sentence was adjourned and C&AB will keep readers updated with his sentencing.

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