WILDLIFE lovers have been left “devastated” after several animals were “killed by ball bearings fired from a catapult” in a churchyard.

A number of squirrels and birds have been found dead in the grounds of St Peter's Church in Preston Park, Brighton.

Visitors to the churchyard say they believe the animals have been killed by ball bearings shot from a catapult.

The Argus: A number of squirrels and birds have been found dead around Preston ParkA number of squirrels and birds have been found dead around Preston Park

Heather St Claire, who has been feeding squirrels in the churchyard for more than two years, said she first became suspicious in late November, after finding several “giant ball bearings” scattered across the grounds.

She said: “The squirrels would usually come when I called them, and I know a lot of people go to the churchyard to feed them.

“But on my last visit I noticed that when I called, no animals would come, and I knew something was wrong.

The Argus: Ball bearings have been found scattered around the churchyardBall bearings have been found scattered around the churchyard

“It’s really heartbreaking because there were at least 20 squirrels that would come, and one even took nuts from my hand. I was really attached to those little critters.”

Heather, who lives in Glasgow and visits Brighton regularly to see her partner, said she shared her concerns on the Brighton and Hove Bird, Gull, Pigeon, Wildlife Advice and Rescue Service Facebook Page.

Several people contacted Heather to say they had seen dead animals in and around the churchyard alongside a number of ball bearings.

Sally Munt, who is a member of the Wildlife Advice and Rescue Service Facebook page, said she is concerned that domestic pets and people could be targeted next.

She told The Argus: “That churchyard is like a sanctuary for wildlife, and it has many, many squirrels, incredible bird life and evidence of foxes living in there.

“It’s just a beautiful place and is very popular with people who just want to go and have some peace and quiet.

“Any of those ball bearings could have hit a child or other people in the park, which is obviously very dangerous.”

Sussex Police are investigating the alleged incident, but no CCTV evidence has been found.

A spokesman for the force said: “Police have made enquiries after receiving a report on 23 November that a number of squirrels may have been harmed by someone using a catapult in St Peter’s Churchyard near Preston Park, Brighton.

“No CCTV of the alleged incident has been found.

“Anyone with any information about the incident should report online or ring 101 quoting serial 765 of 23/11."

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