Police hunt porpoise killers

The alarm was first raised by a member of the public on the sands at Barmston, East Yorkshire, three weeks ago. Photographs handed to the police showed a harbour porpoise which had been washed up dead with a small hole above its eye and a gaping exit wound at the back of its head.

A suspicion that the mammal had been deliberately shot strengthened to near certainty this week with news of a second porpoise, found in a similar condition 150 miles north at Newbiggin, Northumberland.

In the intervening weeks, the corpses of around 40 harbour porpoises – a species on the World Conservation Union’s “vulnerable” list – have washed up on North Sea beaches from Northumberland to Lincolnshire. About 200 of the animals, which are up to 6ft long, are believed to live along the stretch of coast.

At least two of the animals may have been shot with a high-powered rifle and the head injuries on a number of the others suggest that they were beaten to death by an individual who took a heavy implement to the tops of their heads.