by Tony Robinson

They die in pain,victims of a silent killer that has scientists baffled

HITCHCOCK-style horror is unfolding on a quiet council estate where 98 birds mysteriously dropped dead. Their bodies showed no signs of injuries, but post-mortem examinations revealed that their lungs were horribly congested with blood. Now a full doomwatch alert has been mounted because of fear that the mystery killer could strike down humans too. All the dead birds were found within 50 yards of a factory whose products include non-stick coatings for pots and pans.No evidence has so far been found to link the factory with the birds's deaths. Council officials are anxious not to cause panic among the 600 people who live on the council estate beside the factory at Earl Shilton Leicestereshire.


But tomorrow they will have discussions at the Environment Department's headquarter's to decide what should be done. Scientists from the department have already begun investigating the bizarre phenomenon, but so far they are baffled. The local council have also set aside £1,000 for research into the mystery deaths. Mr Denis Bown, Socialist Mayor of the Hinckley-Bosworth council, who represents the area of the factory, said there were some old people's flats and an infants' school near the factory. "I asked the council to take some urgent action," he said, "and we put £1,000 aside to do some tests. "We'll be testing the atmosphere and making sure that people's health is not impaired if there is something. It might be a freak of nature for all I know. I don't want to scare people."
Among the dead birds are six pheasants and four bantams belonging to Mr. Frank White, of High Street, Earl Shilton. He said: "I don't really know what happened. "In the morning they were all fit and healthy and at lunchtime dead or dying. They seemed to be gasping. "I got on to the environmental health people. Everything has been checked. There are no organic poisons herbicides, pesticides or anything of that nature." Mr. White added: "The ground near the factory was absolutely littered with dead or dying birds."
A spokesman for the Imperial Group, parent company of the Plastics Coatings factory at Earl Shilton, said: "We are as concerned as anyone about this. Whether it's us or not is impossible to say. We're getting the best advice we can.


"There 12 factories in this country using the same process and there has been nothing like this at any one of them." The Earl Shilton factory employed about 50 to 60 people, he said, and there had been no union concern about health risks. He added "There is no problem at all with human health so far as we know."
Mr Maurice Jones principal environmental health officer with the local council said yesterday "This could well be a situation similar to the canary in the coal mine where although the canary dies, there is no harm to the pitmen. "Certainly we have no indication of any unusual problems in the human population. "Obviously since the birds are affected by their lungs, it might be expected to affect human beings in the same way.
But doctors in area do not report any increase in chest ailments." Mr Jones said that the mysterious ailment had been taking its toll on bird life for about nine months. Was there any common factor to link occasions when birds had dropped dead?


He said "We noticed that on each occasion the weather was rather cold. We had almost frosty and snow type conditions when the deaths occurred. "Whether the cold contributed to the incidents we don't know." [Sunday Mirror, Feb 22,1976]

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge