Deer were left to starve at stately home

The fallow deer at Clermont Hall Picture: RSPCA

The fallow deer at Clermont Hall Picture: RSPCA - Credit: Archant

A herd of deer were left to starve at a stately home, a court heard today.

Benjamin Rudge and Olena Lobunets kept the animals in a paddock at Clermont Hall, near Watton.

But King's Lynn magistrates were told they were given no food or shelter to help them withstand the worst of the winter.

Jonathan Eales, prosecuting for the RSPCA, said a housekeeper was employed to look after the property and the fallow deer but he did not have money for animal feed.

He said the animal welfare charity visited the hall, at Little Cressingham, after it was contacted by walkers concerned at the condition of the deer.

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Inspectors found the animals were emaciated, while their pen was bare of any grass and infested with molehills when they attended on February 17, 2018. They found one dead deer and another which had collapsed, which subsequently died.

RSPCA workers began visiting to feed the animals, but three more died.

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'Once a deer crosses a certain threshold with malnutrition, you can't bring it back no matter how hard you try,' said Mr Eales. 'The deer is doomed from that point.'

Mr Eales said when interviewed Rudge, 43 and Lobunets, whose age was not given in court, denied there was any problem with the herd.

The couple, whose address was given as Richard Foster Road, Cambridge, did not attend the hearing and were not legally represented in court.

Mr Eales said post mortem examinations revealed the deer were severely under-weight and emaciated.

'These deer died as a result of neglect,' he said. 'They were malnourished, dehydrated, they were incapable of surviving in an enclosure where there was insufficient food and no shelter.'

The surviving nine members of the herd were removed and are now being looked after by the RSPCA, the court was told. The couple no longer lease the hall.

Magistrates found the case proven against Rudge and Lobunets in their absence on two counts each of causing unnecessary suffering to a protected animal.

One related to the five deer that died of malnutrition, the other to the conditions the animals had been kept in.

Sentencing was adjourned until March 20.

In October, Lobunets was fined £2,000 after being found guilty of two counts of failing to respond to a letter from a fire safety officer.

Norwich magistrates heard 'serious fire safety breaches that would have resulted in serious injury or death of occupants' were found at the hall, which was being advertised as a luxury holiday home.

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