A terrified couple have told how they were confronted by masked men in camouflage who apparently refused to let them leave a nature reserve in Sheffield.
George Taylor and his girlfriend, who has not been identified, had enjoyed a leisurely walk around the scenic Wyming Brook Nature Reserve close to Redmires Reservoirs on Tuesday evening.
The couple were returning to the car park when they were met by men in balaclavas and camouflage gear who are said to have ‘blocked the car park exit and prevented them from leaving.’
The Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust, which runs the nature reserve, believe the men were gamekeepers from the nearby Moscar Estate.
The Trust claimed the gamekeepers had been working with police and had arrived to question the couple on suspicion of snare tampering.
The wildlife organisation claims a police officer at the scene referred to some video footage but there was in fact no film, or any other evidence against the couple, who are both keen birdwatchers and trust volunteers.
Liz Ballard, chief executive of the trust, said “This must have been a frightening experience for George and his girlfriend, and certainly not what they expected at the end of an evening walk through through this beautiful reserve.”
George has complained to South Yorkshire Police and the trust said a sergeant has since apologised.
Ms Ballard added: “We welcome the fact that South Yorkshire Police are taking such a proactive approach to ‘rural crime’ issues, it is something we ourselves have been calling for.
“However, it is disappointing to hear the full account as to how the police approached this situation.
“Officers need to be well trained in this area of law and consider the evidence before the accusation.”
The trust also wants to make clear it does not condone people tampering with, cutting or removing snares, which is against the law and criminal damage.
A trust spokesperson said anyone who suspects an illegal snare has been set should “take a picture, with GPS and a date stamp, possibly even measure the height off the ground and then report it to the police, and share it with the trust by emailing email@example.com. “
We have contacted the Moscar Estate and South Yorkshire Police for comment and are waiting for replies.