The roll call of violence sounds like something from the worst excesses of Britain’s inner-cities.
But gamekeepers in rural Staffordshire say they take their lives in their hands every time they go to work. One gamekeeper, who would only speak on condition he remained anonymous, said his confrontations with ruthless armed poachers had left him needing hospital treatment.
He had also been threatened with being shot and been warned his home would be burned down, he said.
“When I go to work, my wife doesn’t know if I’ll be coming back,” the gamekeeper said. “I’ve been gamekeeping for 30 years and poaching is worse now than ever – and it’s getting worse. I’ve been threatened and attacked on several occasions and put into hospital once. I have been kicked, punched, hit with sticks, had my eye split open, had a gun pointed at me and gang members threatened to shoot me and burn down my home.
“All I’ve been doing is my job, asking them what they were doing on someone else’s land. They age from teenagers to pensioners and come in groups of seven to 10 people.
“They are deer poaching, going after them with dogs, shooting them and killing them with knives, shooting pheasants and chasing hares with dogs. People in the towns think poaching is that old fashioned notion of ‘just one for the pot’ and it’s little old men but it’s not.
“These gangs will do anything for money and come mob-handed in case they are approached. A lot come from the North because Staffordshire is a hotspot for poaching.”
The man, who has spent the last 13 years working in the Stafford area, said: “Sometimes I’ve thought ‘Is it worth it?’ But this is my job and my home so why should I let them run me out?”