Three badger killers have been locked up after pioneering forensic techniques were used by experts to catch them.
Antonio Miguel Alonso-Brown. aged 24, of Shelley Drive, Herringthorpe, Nathan Swift, 20, of Hague Avenue, Rawmarsh and his brother Liam, aged 24, of the same address, all in Rotherham, were caught by police near a badger sett off St John’s Road, Unstone, Derbyshire as they tried to flee.
All three where jailed for 12 weeks after they admitted unlawfully killing a badger which was found in a shallow grave nearby.
Police also found locator collars - used to track dogs underground - in the defendants’ vehicle, as well as three shovels and six dogs which were seized and placed into the care of the RSPCA.
The court heard using a pioneering technique, DNA was taken from blood and hair found on one of the shovels, as well as from Nathan Swift’s blood stained vest, and was found to be that of the dead badger.
It was linked back to the defendants.
The badger died from a smashed skull, blunt trauma injuries or puncture wounds, Chesterfield Magistrates Court heard.
It is the first time the badger DNA profiling technique has been used.
Chief inspector Ian Briggs, from the RSPCA’s special operations unit, said: “This case demonstrates perfectly how modern forensic techniques can be applied to animal cruelty cases in order to catch those who might previously have evaded justice.
“We have been able to not only catch these men, but connect them specifically to the badger they killed and use that evidence to prove the case in court.
“Using such advanced science as this in animal welfare prosecutions might have been unheard of just a few years ago but it is now a valuable tool in proving cruelty.
“This was the first time we’d worked with the Wildlife DNA Forensic unit at SASA in this way, but after it has proven such a huge success I’m sure it won’t be the last.”
Dr Lucy Webster, from the Wildlife DNA Forensics at the Scottish Government’s Science and Advice for Scottish Agriculture, said: “The badger DNA profiling system is a powerful tool to link a suspect to a specific badger crime.
“This is the first case to use this system, and it illustrates one way that animal DNA evidence is being used to bring those who are cruel to animals to justice.”
All three were also ordered to pay a victim surcharge of £80 each.