Residents in Newcastle were left horrified after the remains of a wild rabbit with a rocket strapped to its body were found in an incident a local councillor branded "sickening".
The grim discovery, which was first reported in the Mourne Observer newspaper, was made in the early hours of Tuesday morning close to the Bracken Avenue area of the Co Down seaside town.
Local Sinn Fein councillor Willie Clarke issued an appeal for help to identify the "monsters" behind what he described as a "barbaric" incident.
He told this newspaper yesterday: "To find this wild animal with the rocket strapped to its body was just gruesome.
"It's very hard to get your head around this sort of thing.
"It makes you wonder just what sort of a monster would ever do something like this.
"I don't know what age of a person was involved, but this is depraved.
"If they're prepared to do such a terrible thing to an innocent animal, you have to wonder what might they go on to do. It's very worrying."
Councillor Clarke said the view locally was that the rabbit may have been hunted down before having the firework attached to it.
"I sincerely hope that this was the case and that the poor animal didn't suffer," he added.
"But what happened here, either late on Monday night or in the early hours of Tuesday morning, was nothing short of barbaric.
"There's a lot of good community spirit and positive work going on in this part of Newcastle, but this type of behaviour takes away from all of that.
"In all my years in local politics, I've never come across anything like this.
"The local residents living in the area have been left shocked and horrified by what has happened.
"I asked the council to remove the animal as young children walking to school that morning could have come on it.
"I also contacted the PSNI on the matter and would appeal to anyone who knows anything about what happened, or who could help identify those responsible, to come forward.
"Even a snippet of information could prove crucial."
Councillor Clarke said the incident followed a number of reports of anti-social behaviour in the Bracken Avenue and wider Burrendale estate areas over the Halloween weekend.
He added he had been inundated with reports from Friday up until Tuesday of incidents including eggs and fireworks being thrown at private properties and vehicles, which left many elderly residents feeling "tortured".
"With all of the main and traditional Halloween events cancelled this year due to Covid-19, we had been expecting some incidents, but nothing of this degree," he explained.
Councillor Clarke also expressed concern about the sale of illegal fireworks and urged parents to make sure they knew where their child were.