Wildlife campaigners have accused a shop of killing more than a dozen birds. Sussex Police have launched an investigation to find out whether seagulls have been subjected to cruelty.

National Gull Rescue and Protection, which cares for seabirds along the coast said that seagulls had been getting trapped in netting on the roof of the Booker cash and carry in Eastbourne.

However, Booker has said they employ professional pest controllers to deal with the birds.

Campaigners said they notified managers of the store in Hammond Drive, that netting on the roof was unsuitable and putting birds’ lives at risk in February.

Store bosses are thought to have put up the net because scraps of food left behind by gulls were attracting rats.

The charity said that they have found at least 13 birds that have died after becoming trapped in the netting.

Rescuers Tim McKenzie rescued one gull that became trapped on the roof at the weekend.

He is now trying to help the five-year-old female, named Midnight, because she kept him up all night with worry to recover from her injuries.

Mr McKenzie said: “We told them some weeks ago that the netting was no good and was killing birds.

“They are knowingly causing the birds suffering by not doing anything about it.”

A spokesman for Sussex Police said: “Police were contacted by a member of the public and a wildlife charity, about the reported deaths of seagulls in netting at Bookers, Hammonds Drive, Eastbourne.

“Initial police enquiries are being made in liaison with other agencies to establish the circumstances to and see what if any offences have been committed against relevant wildlife legislation.”

A spokeswoman for Booker said: “Following feedback from local residents regarding nuisance seagulls and to maintain the highest standards of hygiene, Booker has a responsibility to deal with this significant issue. We do not want to trap the birds or cause them any distress.

“Booker employs a professional pest control contractor to help deal with this issue. Following the contractors advice a net was put across the roof in October 2009. This is similar to other large roofed premises in the area. There have been teething problems with the net and the professional pest contractor is actively engaged in releasing any birds that are mistakenly caught. They are also responsible for modifying the net to help prevent the birds from becoming trapped and to keep them from settling on the roof. Hawks will also be used to help deter the gulls from returning.”