MYSTERY surrounds the deaths of four swans and a goose at a Radcliffe canal in the same week.

One swan was discovered headless while three others died of suspected poisoning in the Manchester, Bury and Bolton canal.

RSPCA chiefs are investigating several theories and have appealed to the public for help.

Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs) from Radcliffe police were on patrol on Sunday afternoon when they spotted the headless swan.

PCSO James Quigley said: “Its head and neck had been severed close to the body fairly cleanly.

“We later found another swan dead in the water nearby with no obvious injuries.”

PCSO Norman Taylor was with Mr Quigley when he discovered the dead swan.

He said: “It is very upsetting because we have seen them growing up from being cygnets to swans. A lot of people use that footpath and a lot of elderly people go to walk down there.

“It is very sickening because we don’t know who has done it.”

A Bury Council Ranger reported the incident to the RSPCA after being alerted by a walker.

Michael Cowcill, of Lever Street, Radcliffe, said: “I was just going for a walk when I found it. I go there every Sunday with my girlfriend. I was really upset because it looked like its head was cut off. It’s shameful.”

The discovery comes a week after two swans and a goose were found dead nearby.

RSPCA inspectors were called to Gorsefield Close, Radcliffe, on Sunday, January, 11, following reports of birds dead by the road.

An RSPCA spokesman said: “Both swans were bleeding from their beaks but, otherwise, there was no apparent sign of injury or obvious cause of death. The goose had clearly had its wings clipped but otherwise seemed in good bodily condition.”

British Waterways is carrying out tests to establish whether the water had been poisoned.

Elaine Walsh, who walks her dog Patch at the canal, said: “It’s horrible. There are some weirdos that hang around the canal so I don’t walk the dog down here as often now.”

There is a £5,000 fine and a possible six month prison sentence for the deliberate killing of swans, which are legally protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.

Anyone with information should contact the RSPCA on 0300 123 4999 .