HEARTLESS thieves stole and killed a group of baby swans from Birkenhead Park.

Visitors to the park have been left shocked after six cygnets went missing last Thursday and the body of one of the animals was later found.

It is thought the bird was shot with a pellet gun but the other five are still missing from their nest – police believe they died in the same way.

Eight cygnets arrived at the park's lake around two weeks ago and attracted attention from families, young and old.

However following their disappearance people feared the worst had happened, according to one regular visitor.

The visitor, who asked to be known by her first name only, Pauline, said: "I come here a few times a week and the signets have brought so much joy to the people who come here.

"Everyone from grandmas to kids loves them because they're such beautiful animals.

"When we noticed that six had gone, we didn't know if it had been a predator or humans – we were hoping it was predators because that is nature and you have to accept that. But to think that this could happen is just awful.

"This is a lovely park and so many people have worked hard to tidy it up and make it inviting.

"I don't understand why anyone would want to hurt them."

Merseyside Police's wildlife crime officer is now appealing for help from the public following the tragic incident.

Constable Rachael Krueger said: "This is a cruel and callous act of violence on defenceless animals.

"Swans are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and it is an offence to kill or injure such birds.

"We are working to trace those responsible, enquiries are on-going and I would like to appeal to the public for information."

Anyone who has information is asked to contact officers on 101 or Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111.