THE RSPCA is appealing for witnesses after a woman strangled a swan to death in a County Durham park.

Police and the animal welfare charity were contacted by a member of the public who saw the swan being attacked by a woman in Riverside Park, Chester-le-Street, at about 7pm on Thursday evening.

RSPCA Inspector Trevor Walker, who is now investigating, said: “Police were initially called by a member of the public who saw a woman grab the swan, straddle the bird and wring its neck.

“Officers attended the scene where they found the adult swan dead - with a soft tissue injury consistent with being strangled - and spoke to two women in connection with the incident.

“The bird’s body was removed by council workers and we were contacted to investigate.”

He added: “This sounds like an extremely upsetting incident and this attack has led to the unnecessary, tragic death of a beautiful bird.

“I’d like to hear from anybody who was in the park at around 7pm on Thursday evening and who may have seen the incident or the women involved. Anyone with information should contact 0300 123 8018 and leave me a message.”

Swans are protected and it’s illegal to kill one of these birds. Anyone caught deliberately trying to injure, kill or take a wild bird without a licence, can face up to six months in prison and/or an unlimited fine if found guilty under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.