South West Wales

Gareth Mattson sentenced for killing Withybush swans

Swans at Withybush Woods
Image caption The swans lived on the pond inside Withybush Woods

A 33-year-old man has been given a suspended jail sentence after he admitted killing a family of swans.

Gareth Mattson fatally shot three birds with an air rifle in Withybush Woods in Haverfordwest, Pembrokeshire, last October. Another was seriously injured.

He had been due to stand trial at Haverfordwest Magistrates' Court on Wednesday but changed his pleas.

Two men, aged 19 and 24 and a 13-year-old boy also admitted killing the swans at hearings in March.

The court heard Mattson had worked on a dairy farm for 14 years and took a group of men and the boy onto private land near the woodland to shoot rabbits on 19 October last year.

It was on returning through the wood in the evening that the group started shooting at the pond, but Mattson claimed he initially did not see the swans because it was dark.

'Deeply remorseful'

Mattson pleaded guilty to being in possession of a loaded air rifle in a public place and to intentionally killing or injuring a wild bird.

The court was told his actions had caused problems in his family and he was "deeply remorseful".

He was sentenced to five months in prison, suspended for 12 months, and was told to pay £525 in costs.

The swan is a protected species in the UK and it is a criminal offence to harm one.

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