Mystery has deepened over the death of a love-sick peacock that caused feathers to fly when it regularly rambled around a village centre looking for a mate.
The all-white bird - dubbed Bertie - frequently startled residents in Handcross when he wandered onto rooftops and into gardens. And while many were delighted to see him, many others complained when they were awoken in the early hours by his shrill cries.
But villagers reacted with shock when Bertie was found dead in nearby Slaugham last week.
Retired scientist Colin Smith, who said his wife found Bertie’s body in a field while out walking their dogs on Tuesday, is convinced that someone deliberately killed the bird.
But Rosemary Botting - a friend of Bertie’s owner Jo Wilding - said that Bertie had been killed by a fox. “He had puncture marks on his neck. Bertie was got by a fox. No human would have been able to get near enough to hurt him.
“We haven’t got a psychopath going round killing animals. Nature is very cruel and always will be, but it’s all to do with the food chain. It’s very sad.”
She said Jo and her family were ‘devastated’ by Bertie’s death.
Bertie rose to fame last year when he suddenly appeared in Handcross, ambling all over the village, ‘calling’ for a mate.
At one point he was ‘rescued’ and taken to a sanctuary in Kent before owner Jo finally got him back. But Bertie went on his travels again earlier this year and once more went on the roam around Handcross before Jo found him a mate named Doris.
Rosemary added: “Bertie was a character. He had just got ‘married’. Now Doris is a widow.”