"Poor old fellow" is not Shergar

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The man who thought he had found the skull of Derby champion Shergar today spoke of his disappointment that he had been proved wrong.

Tommy Foley, a councillor in Co Kerry, uncovered the remains near Tralee while helping in the community clean-up of a glen.

The skull had two neat bullet holes in the forehead and was sent to the Irish Equine Centre in Co Kildare to establish whether it was that of the multi-million pound racehorse stolen by the IRA 17 years ago and never seen again.

But early today an examination showed the horse's head was too short in the tooth.

Des Leadon, the centre's head of clinical pathology, said the animal had probably been professionally destroyed - and its molar teeth proved it was much younger than Shergar when it died.

"We know that Shergar was at least five years of age at the time he was kidnapped, but this horse died somewhere between one and a half and two and a half years of age.

"This could not therefore be the skull of Shergar and we do not need to proceed any further or carry out any further laboratory tests.

"We know from the anatomical features of this individual that, poor old fellow that he was - and he probably had something like a broken leg - that he is definitely not Shergar."

Mr Foley reacted sadly to the news, saying: "I would not dispute the findings of the experts, but I am very disappointed.

"I was more or less positive it was Shergar because of the Kerry link with the abduction.

"I would still wish that Shergar would be found eventually to lay the mystery to rest once and for all. I am sure I share that with everyone who loves racing."

Mr Foley rejected suggestions that a bid to get publicity for Co Kerry lay behind the affair.

Shergar was stolen from the Ballymany stud near Newbridge, County Kildare, in 1983. It was thought that the IRA took the horse in a bid to secure a massive ransom.

But the bid failed and it is widely believed that the double Derby winner died while in the hands of his kidnappers.