A top budgerigar breeder spoke of his devastation yesterday after returning home to find his champion bird killed in a suspected sabotage attack by a rival.
Andrew Pooley, 58, discovered his prize bird, Penmead Pride, had been stamped on and 21 others – worth £2,000 – had been stolen the night before they were due to compete in Cornwall Budgerigar Show.
He suspects he has been the victim of sabotage by a rival breeder and the incident is being investigated by police.
The killing happened on 20 August, a day before the competition where Penmead Pride was last year crowned champion. Mr Pooley, of Delabole, Cornwall, had been due to take part in the event but was forced to withdraw because of the loss of his prize birds.
He said yesterday: "I was devastated. I felt sick. It's a feeling I can't explain. I have spent 40 years of my life breeding budgies and it's just in the last five that I have started to do really well on the show circuit. I spent most of my time with the birds, they were my life."
Mr Pooley said he had made appeals in specialist budgerigar publications in the hope of catching those responsible and getting his birds back. "There's nothing I can do to put this right," he said.
"I have everyone in the country looking for them. I can't think who would have done it. I'm 100 per cent certain whoever did this knew what they were doing as they picked the best birds, they targeted my show team," he added.
On the day of the attack, Mr Pooley had been preparing his birds for the show with the help of his nephew. He did not realise what had happened until the next morning, when he went inside his aviary to feed the birds.
"I walked in and it was very, very quiet and I thought that was strange," he said. "I looked and saw that the birds were gone and on the ground were three dead, including Penmead Pride."