SENIOR police officers insisted last night they had thoroughly investigated claims two officers bludgeoned a deer to death with crowbars.

In June, The Northern Echo revealed that two firearms officers were being investigated following claims they had killed a deer inhumanely by beating it with crowbars at a site close to Tanfield Lea, County Durham.

Since then rumours have circulated that photos were taken of the incident.

But senior officers say an investigation failed to uncover any evidence of photos.

Superintendent Darren Ellis and Chief Inspector Steve Winship of the force’s professional standards departments said a file on the incident presented to the Crown Prosecution Service was – to their knowledge - complete.

They said the file included material captured at the scene but said they had not found any photographs of officers posing with the dead deer.

Supt Ellis said: “We’re professional in what we do and we’re not taking risks, the reputation of our department is too important to meddle with these issues.

“The fact that a member of staff feels it’s an option to speak to the press is really sad – nobody can level any criticism around us doing anything other than being true, proportionate and transparent."

He added: “As a senior investigating officer, I cannot think of anything we’ve not got which would add to the evidence.

“If photos are out there, we need them quickly – we’ve searched and our investigation has been thorough and our approach has been one of absolute openness and transparency.

“We’re taking it really seriously, we’ve heard the community’s concerns and are doing a full and proper investigation and will not shy away in any way shape or form from the truth."

However, a member of the force told The Northern Echo: "[This was] killing an animal and they should be punished like any other member of the public who would be arrested and prosecuted.

“It’s disgusting – if we do something wrong, we should be treated the same as anybody else.”