A MAN immersed a grey squirrel in a bin full of freezing water after telling a neighbour they were “pests” and “vermin”.

Clifford James Henley, 53, of Drummond Road, Bournemouth, told a court he was "on the side of British wildlife" after he trapped the squirrel in his garden on January 2, 2021.

When neighbours heard it “screaming”, he said “watch me” and submerged it in a bin of water.

He was convicted at Poole Magistrates’ Court of causing unnecessary suffering to a protected animal on Thursday.

Bournemouth Echo: Clifford James Henley, 53, outside Poole Magistrates' Court

Prosecuting, Sophie Evans said two neighbours, Justyna Wozniak and Klaudia Kocssis, noticed a squirrel “screaming” in a cage in Henley’s garden.

“Ms Wozniak picked up the cage, she was approached by Mr Henley, he began to shout at her and told her not to touch the cage,” Ms Evans said.

“He said he caught squirrels so he could kill them because they are pests. He carried it to a bin full of water and submerged it with the squirrel in the cage.”

Giving evidence, Ms Wozniak told the court Henley said he was allowed to kill the squirrels.

“He said ‘watch me, watch me’, took the cage and put it inside the water. I was focussed on one situation, the squirrel.”

Ms Kocssis said: “We tried to find out how to open or help the squirrel. The man came and was shouting ‘what are you doing with my cage?’

“He said it was like a rat spreading diseases, he said he had them to kill them. He took the cage and said ‘look what I can do’.”

Veterinary surgeon, Dr David Martin, told the court submerging the squirrel for any amount of time would cause it “fear, panic and distress”.

He added: “The one way this squirrel could have not suffered would be if it was already dead when it went into the water.”

Giving evidence, Henley said the cage belonged to his neighbour and he allowed him to trap squirrels in his garden.

He said: “I tried to explain it was a clash of cultures. At no point did I say I was going to kill that squirrel.”

Bournemouth Echo: Grey Squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) looks out from behind a tree. London, UK.

Henley told the court there was a “tug of war” for the cage and he put it on top of the bin, not in it, but accepted it might have accidentally been immersed.

He said he was happy to fight it in court and didn’t want his elderly neighbour to face court.

Mitigating counsel, Laura Deuxberry, said the court had to be sure of the defendant’s actions and said accidentally submerging the squirrel was not sufficient.

District Judge Stephen Nicholls found the defendant guilty. He said: “There was clearly an argument between the defendant and those two ladies.

“The court is satisfied the defendant had the cage and deliberately placed it into the bucket of water. The squirrel would have suffered unnecessary suffering. The defendant knew it would cause unnecessary suffering.”

The hearing was adjourned for sentencing at the same court on November 1.