Bristol man denies killing UK's rarest butterfly

Large Blue butterfly Image copyright PA
Image caption The Large Blue is the largest and rarest of blue butterflies and is a protected species

A man has appeared in court charged with capturing and killing the UK's rarest butterfly.

Phillip Cullen, 57, of Cadbury Heath, Bristol, is accused of six offences related to the endangered Large Blue [Maculinea arion].

He is alleged to have captured and killed two butterflies from sites in Gloucestershire and Somerset in 2015.

He denied all charges at Bristol Magistrates' Court and was granted unconditional bail.

Mr Cullen will appear for trial on 16 March.

The prosecution is believed to be the first involving offences related to Large Blue butterflies in the UK.

Protected species

The court heard the two butterflies were allegedly taken from Daneway Banks near Cirencester, Gloucestershire, on 18 June 2015 and from Collard Hill, near Street, Somerset, between 17 and 20 June that year.

It is claimed witnesses saw Mr Cullen taking them before killing and mounting them in a display case.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Phillip Cullen could face prison or an unlimited fine if convicted

Dead butterflies were found at Mr Cullen's Bristol home on 13 February last year after a police search, the court was told.

Prosecutor Kevin Withey told the court: "The defendant faces charges in terms of capturing, killing and possession of a protected butterfly.

"The butterfly became extinct in this country in the late 1970s and was reintroduced and is a protected species in certain parts of the country.

"Significant care is given to its wellbeing and its hopeful future flourishing."

The globally-endangered species has always been rare in Britain, but became extinct in 1979.

In 2004 it was found on nine sites in the country following a major conservation programme.

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