Attack follows legal cormorant shooting

A 63-year-old angler was nursing a broken nose and ribs, plus two black eyes following a vicious assault by a birdwatcher.

St Helens AA member Malcolm Rigby was subjected to the attack at his local Carr Mill Dam,  prolific bream and roach venue which has been used for big matches such as the UK Championship and British Open.

The keen fisherman had just legally shot a cormorant at the 55-acre lake, which is 14 miles from the coast, when he noticed a man watching him through binoculars on the opposite bank.

Malcolm revealed how he was then challenged by the unknown individual on the way back to his car and, before he knew it fists were flying.

"I expected to get some abuse as I usually do from birdwatchers. Most ask me why I'm shooting the birds as they don't understand the harm they do to fish stocks. The man said 'You've just discharged a shotgun in a public place' but I told him that that side of the lake is private land and that the fishing club has a full licence to cull a set number of cormorants at the venue every year," aid Malcolm.

"He then came up to me and screamed 'prove it!' right in my face. I felt that I didn't have to prove anything and carried on walking," aid Malcolm. The unknown male then told him he was 'going to make a citizen's arrest', then rushed after Malcolm and punched him, first in the face, then repeatedly in the back as he tried to escape.

"My hands were full with my dog's lead and the cormorant, plus I had my gun in a sling over my shoulder, so I couldn't react quickly enough. If I had fought back, I might have lost my licence. He was a big bloke and knew what he was doing," he added.

Despite accounts from two eye witnesses, an investigation by Merseyside police has so far failed to catch the culprit, who is described as being over 6ft tall and in his 40s. At the time of the attack, he was wearing a matching outdoor fleece and woolly hat.

Mark Lloyd, chief executive of the Angling Trust, said: "This is alarming and demonstrates the difficulties fishery managers face in protecting their waters. Not only do they have to fill in numerous forms to get permission to shoot just a fraction of the birds eating their fish, they also face verbal and physical attacks for going about their lawful business. We urge the police to take this assault very seriously and we hope that the offender is found and punished severely."