Victoria Park Smethwick- The Park of Death

In August I detailed how several birds had been found dead in this “green flag” park managed by Sandwell council. It had been reported in The Express and Star newspaper that these birds had been “left rotting” in the pool for several weeks and that the council had supposedly sent off birds for post mortem.


Despite issuing statements in this article around Botulism being the likely cause of death and attempting to focus attention on the unproven toxin rather than the environmental conditions at the park in question , there were also some unanswered questions as well as issues surrounding what I had seen two of Sandwell council’s environmental health officers or pest controllers  doing at this location at an earlier date with baited stations and rat poison. THIS REMAINS THE CASE.

Despite using a media platform initially to suggest that they were in control of the situation as regards removing any dead birds from the water, unfortunately subsequent inaction by council officers has failed to alleviate what has occurred at this site or even attempt to investigate it. There were conflicting statements made at different times by councillors/officers as to how many birds had died and what was happening with the alleged post mortems.

It subsequently transpired that just one female mallard had been sent off for post mortem and received on 19th July. I had to obtain this myself via an FOI request to The Animal Plant and Health Agency, after failures from SMBC officers to provide me with any basic details,  where it appeared that someone from Sandwell council/Serco (Smbc’s waste partner contractor), had informed them that around 20 birds had been found dead to that date.


The limited post mortem APHA reference number 26-B0162-07-18 , hampered by the decaying carcass quality was only tested for avian influenza, and so no botulism was even considered or looked for.

Numerous more deaths of several species have since been noted since August, and these were also reported to Sandwell council, and the RSPCA have been heavily involved in catching sick birds, as well as retrieving dead ones from the lowered water levels. These birds were then given to Sandwell council to arrange further post mortems with Defra. Unfortunately it appears that this did not happen.






Sick goose



Another Dead mallard

I am setting out below the full email correspondence between myself and Sandwell Council surrounding this issue for the record. What can be seen here is the dithering, inaction and inconsistent statements which in themselves raise questions as to why SMBC are rather muted about issues surrounding this lake and what is behind the cause of the birds’ demise.



Contacted Max Cookson, “waste and transportation manager” SMBC copying in cabinet members Cllr Bill Gavan and Cllr Dave Hossell.

Reference made to conversation with MC a few weeks earlier following publication in Express and Star of multiple bird deaths at this site. At meeting with Max cookson I had asked who had collected the dead birds and where they had been taken? He had said that he would contact me with this information but hadn’t done so. I query a number of issues surrounding the litter in the pool and also the fact that SMBC  are aware that the pool cannot retain water due to the collapsed and unrepaired drainage channel underneath the pool. N.B The picture of a Severn Trent water van in this park is noted, but what were they doing there? Is there no link to anything going on or may have transpired in the pool?



Reply from Max Cookson stating that he would supply me the information in the next week or so and also claiming that the council were looking at aerating the pool. He had copied in to this council officers Matt Darby, Jo Miskin and Darren Jones.



Reply from Cllr Gavan acknowledging the email and also asking the above named officers whether it would be possible to clear up the litter around the edge of the pool? (Sent from his I phone.) N.B this being one month since the dead mallard had been submitted to the AHPA and longer still from the claimed deaths of dead birds weeks earlier that had been “left rotting” by the council in the lake.



I Emailed Max cookson also copying in Cllr Gavan and other officers that he had previously tasked with clearing the litter. I pointed out that no action at all had been taken and that I had also not been contacted by Max Cookson or anyone else as had he had stated would happen in his email of 21/8 .  N.B Three weeks had gone by without reply. I also had at this point obtained the “post mortem” of the single bird that they had sent for post mortem myself via an foi request, also without having been informed by MC as to whom he had contacted at DEFRA. (see above)




A forwarded email from John R satchwell sent to myself and for some reason him copying in chief executive Jan Britton and someone called Alan Caddick (no idea). Many claims made in the email but no detail as to when the council would be taking action, and largely telling me what I already knew and had found out myself via the freedom of information request. I am certain that he did not compose this email himself, and the fact that it was a forwarded email would appear to confirm this. The wording of this is very similar to that I had received from the APHA , then vla about deaths at Rattlechain lagoon and is deliberately non specific. So who wrote this email really?




On 8th October, I visited Victoria Park and was horrified to see a dead swan carcass on the pool, as well as a dead goose on the island and at least two dead mallards in the water. Another mallard was visibly sick on the water. I am aware that the swan had not been at the site on my previous visit of 4th October. A passer by reported that it had been alive the day before on the water.

I contacted the RSPCA for assistance in rescuing the mallard.






A boat was launched, after removing a syringe from the edge of the water, the mallard was caught and the officers also retrieved the other dead birds. To watch the RSPCA catch the bird click here.




The open bait box, minus any bait was also noted at the edge of the pool.


As Sandwell council continue to procrastinate and dither on taking environmental action, one can only hope that someone who is not out of their depth at two feet of water will hopefully seize the initiative and start caring about this park. Here is a video I took on 16th August concerning the litter and issue surrounding the collapsed and badly “repaired” water leak. Two months on- still no action.

The claims made by Sandwell council’s press office and cabinet member within this article cannot be further from the truth. Accordingly I am contacting Keep Britain Tidy with evidence to demand that this park is judged again in its current state.








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