A FORMER North Lancashire detective who investigated serious crimes in the region for more than 30 years will head a new taskforce to combat the rapid increase in wildlife crime across England and Wales.

Gareth Cole, 57, who covered areas such as Carnforth and Warton during his time at Lancashire Police, has been appointed as the poaching priority project officer for the UK National Wildlife Crime Unit.

Mr Cole, who lives in the region, said: “I have always had a massive love and passion for wildlife. Poaching of deer and salmon, and hare coursing was showing a substantial increase, and the 42 police forces of England and Wales wanted to do something about it. So it was decided to recruit a co-ordinator for anti-poaching.”

Mr Cole, who retired from Lancashire Police in 2007 and worked on unsolved murders in Northern Ireland before returning to the area earlier this year, will begin his new role on October 1.

He added: “When you look at the bigger picture, these people are not just your Zac Dingles (of TV’s Emmerdale), catching animals to feed their family.

“They are professionals who inhumanely kill the animals, often at night time with dogs, illegally held firearms, culling them, selling them through the back door of pubs and restaurants and not having a care in the world for the general quality of the meat or fish.”