A GAMEKEEPER who started a group aimed at reporting and reducing rural crime has resigned after 22 years and started another organisation.

Brian Pavey said he had ‘unresolved disagreements’ with police officers he worked with as part of his role with Countryside Crime Watch (CCW).

Under Mr Pavey’s stewardship, CCW patrolled rural areas around Darlington for two decades.

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After speaking to landowners and former members of the group, Mr Pavey decided to form Rural Crime Watch (RCW) and is encouraging new members to join.

He held a meeting with Darlington’s most senior police officer, Chief Superintendent Graham Hall, in an effort to repair strained relationships.

Mr Pavey, 76, who worked with special forces during his Army career, said he has been given the police’s backing to continue his efforts to help cut crime in Darlington’s rural areas.

He believes many people living in rural areas of the borough are distrustful of the police and reluctant to contact officers about incidents – with groups like CCW and RCW able to help bridge any gap between landowners and the authorities.

Mr Pavey said: “I still have authority from many farmers to shoot vermin on their lands.

“Being the way I am, I could not stand by and watch illegal trespassing, poaching and thieving taking place.

“After speaking to ex-members [of CCW], I have decided at their request to set up a new group.

“It will not be run in the same manner – all meetings will be of a social nature only.

“We can, if membership grows, still organise covert operations to catch those criminals still ignoring warnings about their illegal activities.

Mr Pavey and his grandson recently visited lands in Barmpton, Skerningham, Coatham Mundeville and Brafferton.

RCW members reported the following concerns: • Lamping – the practice of shining light at animals and sending hounds in pursuit; • Unauthorised shooting of animals; • Poachers using ferrets to catch rabbits, then releasing them for hounds to capture and kill; • Dog baiting; • Deer hunting.

Mr Pavey added: “The illegal use of firearms is very disconcerting to everyone and some idiot may use them if confronted.”

Anyone who would like to become a member of RCW can call Mr Pavey on 07771-876-842.