London: A swan owned by Queen Elizabeth II was found barbequed and left to rot on the banks of river Thames near Royal residence of Windsor Castle, prompting police to launch a probe.
The carcass of the royal bird was found on Baths Island in Berkshire, in the middle of a picnic area popular with children and tourists. It had been cooked with its feathers still attached and all the meat stripped out.
All wild swans in the UK are the property of the Queen and it is a criminal offence to kill one. Killing or injuring a swan was once classed as treason under a law dating back to the 12th century.
"Thames Valley Police is investigating a theft following a report at 12.38 pm on August 18 by a Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead Council warden who had found a swan. The swan had been killed and burnt," a police spokesperson said.
The birds are now protected by the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 under which the suspects face a maximum of six months` in jail and fine of 5,000 pounds.
David Barber, the Queen`s Swan Marker, said, "It`s an absolutely shocking situation and as far as I`m concerned the police are investigating this. All swans are considered by people to be royal birds and it`s quite a shock to people to see this in a middle of a picnic lawn in a public area."
Wendy Hermon, from the charity Swan Lifeline, which cares for sick and injured birds, said she discovered the "sickening" scene on Sunday afternoon.
"We have no idea how it was killed, it could have been shot or beaten. I felt sick when I saw it. How can someone do that and leave it where they did? It just sickens me that there are people out there that do things like that," she added.