Thief who stole 700 eggs from Britain's most endangered birds is jailed for six months
One of Britain's most prolific egg thieves who scoured the country to steal almost 700 eggs from seriously endangered birds was jailed for six months today.
Despite being jailed three times previously for identical offences, Matthew Gonshaw, 49, from Bow, east London, donned climbing equipment to steal entire nests - including those of ospreys, golden eagles and peregrine falcons.
Some of the stolen eggs are believed to have had chicks in them nearly ready to hatch, which would have been killed as he prepared the shells for display.
The trophy hunter, who travelled widely around the UK for his hobby, was found with his collection of 697 eggs stored in specially adapted homemade cabinets.
He also now faces being the first person to be slapped with an Asbo for the offence.
Jailing him for the maximum term, District Judge William Ashworth said: 'This was an ongoing venture that wasn't going to stop.
'The offence is serious that only a custodial sentence can be justified because this represented a methodically and meticulously planned venture targeting rare British birds and placing them in peril and causing substantial losses to the local community.
'It is made worse by your previous convictions.'
Like many of his 'underground community', he would make small holes in the shell and blow the eggs to get rid of the contents.
However, many of the eggs were close to hatching and he had to remove chicks - killing the young and damaging the collection.
Gonshaw targeted more than 170 nests, some repeatedly, and his theft of golden eagle and osprey eggs was 'unprecedented'.
Becky Owen, prosecuting, said: 'A significant number of the eggs had large and untidy holes in them which suggest that the eggs were taken too late in the incubation and therefore he removed developing chicks... including from the golden eagles' eggs.
'The egg thieves will watch a nest over a considerable period to attempt to identify when they are being laid and it is in fact a lack of skill on the part of the egg thief that he has got this entirely wrong.'
The eggs will now have to be destroyed rather than passed on to a Natural History Museum as this would be seen as an 'achievement' for the egg thief.
Speaking outside court ,RSPB officer Mark Thomas said: 'He is one of the most prolific collectors of wild bird eggs in the UK and he has got a disregard for wild birds, particularly rare ones, and the people who spend thousands of hours looking after them.
'With the golden eagle eggs in particular, it was incredibly cruel. He took them about a week from hatching - he basically removed a live chick... and all he could do was put [the eggs] in a wooden tray and hide them in his home.
'He is obsessive, he can't stop collecting eggs and he is putting some of the most endangered birds in the UK in peril.'
Source: Daily Mail Online