Lifelong dream over after thieves target Upminster bird centre

A young woman’s lifelong dream to open a bird of prey centre has been shattered after thieves broke in just weeks before it was due to be opened.

Devastated Hannah Donoghue, 22, had worked three jobs for the last five years to save up enough money for the bird conservation centre in Belhus Country Park, Upminster.

But just weeks before it was due to open, thieves smashed in a door, stealing chairs and even a family of baby rabbits which had been housed in the centre’s office.

The thieves struck last Monday (August 8) evening, turning the bird centre office upside down and causing hundreds of pounds worth of damage.

Hannah, who has wanted to open a bird of prey centre since she was 10-years-old, has now been forced to abandon her dream for fear of her bird’s safety.

She said: “It all started when I went to Eagle Heights as a kid, a bird of prey centre in Kent. It was love at first sight.

“I’ve worked at other conservation centres since then. I was also at House of Frasier, working three different jobs there to pay for it. While this was going on we were also doing different bird shows.

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“We also got different donations from people, like wood and a few pounds here and there.”

Now Hannah and her partner Luke James, 21, have decided not to open the centre and risk losing birds worth thousands of pounds, including hawks, falcons and European eagle owls.

Hannah said: “It’s heartbreaking. This is something I’ve always wanted to do. We wanted it to be a children’s education centre.

“But we’ve become a target even while we’re under construction. The birds aren’t worth risking. I’d be a nervous wreck doing anything down there now.

“We’ll still do our shows but for the moment the conservation centre isn’t something we’re going to go ahead with.”