'Find thief who stole my £8,000 prize-winning pigeons'
A man has been left gutted after thieves raided his pigeon loft and stole his prize-winning birds.
About 50 birds, thought to be worth £8,000, were taken from Harry McCloy's loft in Cullybackey, Co Antrim, last Friday night into Saturday morning.
He said: "On Saturday morning I went in to pick out the candidates for the next race and that's when I noticed they were missing.
"At least 38 racing pigeons and a few stock pigeons were taken.
"A few escaped as well, and there's three or four still flying about here now and then.
"The people who took them must have got spooked and scarpered."
Five lofts at his Cullybackey home were broken into, and other valuable equipment was ignored during the theft.
Mr McCloy said: "There was a quad and a strimmer in the yard, but they weren't touched. There was no blood, no feathers, so I knew the thieves weren't animals, they were the two-legged kind and they knew what to take."
He has warned the thieves will not be able to race the birds, as they will fly back to his lofts as soon as they are released, but thinks the robbers could be using them to breed.
A number of the stolen birds had been awarded titles from the Irish National Flying Club, and Mr McCloy believes the break-in was an attempt to ruin his racing season.
"Some of them are my best prize winners that I've bought in places like Belgium or Holland and brought home," he explained. "They've raced from as far as France, so whenever they're let off they will come home. This is their home, I just hope they're still alive.
The robbery has left the entire McCloy family shaken, and Mr McCloy has questioned his return to the sport.
"My 12-year-old daughter didn't sleep last night. She was up saying 'daddy, daddy, I hear a noise'. It's bad enough that they've taken the birds, but when it affects my family it's even worse," he said.
"You get attached to the birds, you look after them every day. You've to put a lot of time and effort into them. I'm up at 5.30 every morning with them and I travel across Northern Ireland to train them to get them fit for the races.
"I feel like quitting. To try to get a team of birds built up to compete has taken years of hard work and to go through that all again... I'm gutted."
Mr McCloy has urged those who took his birds to release them so they can fly home, and offered a £2,000 reward for information leading to their return.