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Associated Press
Saturday, March 9, 1996

Right beneath Adm. Lord Nelson's imperious nose topping his statue in Trafalgar Square, two mystery men are rustling pigeons.

More than 1,000 have been snatched by the boxful, and the suspicion is that the pigeons are ending up on restaurant platters.

Two pigeon snatchers are at large, scooping up the friendly birds in batches of 40 at a time and taking them in a large box.

Bernard Rayner, whose family has sold seed for pigeons in Trafalgar Square for three generations, says he has spotted one of the thieves a dozen times during the past two months. Recently, an accomplice has showed up as well.

On Tuesday, Beresford went to the police, and Scotland Yard is investigating.

The two men are in their early 20s, one wears a red baseball cap, and they have south London accents. Otherwise, there's not much to go on.

"He takes 40 to 50 pigeons at a time," said Rayner, who estimated Trafalgar Square is at least 1,000 pigeons short. "He takes away so many that I am sure he ends up breaking their wings (in the boxes)."

Police Officer Roy Riggs was quoted in the Sun on Friday as saying that he told one of the men he was committing an offense under the Wildlife and Countryside Act, but that the man took no notice.

"There is a strong suspicion these pigeons are ending up in pies rather than in races," Riggs was quoted as saying. "They are probably being sold on to Greek restaurants, as they are some sort of delicacy out there."

To the curious, the rustler with the baseball cap shows a membership card from a pigeon-racing club in south London, and says he's going to enter the birds in races. The sport is popular in Britain.

Rayner is worried that at this rate, there'll be no birds left for the tourists to feed with his seed.

"He is also going to upset a lot of children. Trafalgar Square is the only place in the country you can get a wild animal to sit on your head," he said.

Photo by Lynne Sladky/Associated Press Photo (Page A2, The Phoenix Gazette) by Associated Press; Caption: There doesn't seem to be a shortage of pigeons around Marie Linton, who was visiting London's Trafalgar Square, but more than 1,000 pigeons have been snatched from the area. The thieves are "going to upset a lot of children," a birdseed seller says. "Trafalgar Square is the only place in the country you can get a wild animal to sit on your head." Some fear that scenes like this, in which French tourist Morelli Archange is covered with pigeons while visiting Trafalgar Square in London, may cease to exist if a pair of birdnappers aren't apprehended. [Click on the image to see an enlarged view. Use your browser's Back <= button to return to this page.]