A GRANDFATHER has been left devastated after thieves stole his prized collection of racing pigeons worth £3000 in a break-in at his bird loft.
James Neil discovered that ten of his breeding pigeons had been stolen from an owner’s compound in Church Place, Fauldhouse after the culprits forced open a padlock on the loft.
The 70-year-old said the thieves had most likely stolen the birds to breed their own pigeons for sale, and added he did not suspect rival pigeon fanciers to be behind the theft.
Police have appealed for help from the pigeon racing community in a bid to recover the birds following the break-in, which took place between 2pm on Saturday and 10am on Sunday.
Mr Neil, a retired miner, has been racing pigeons since he was at high school, and is a long-time member of the Fauldhouse Homing Club, which stages weekly races from England back to West Lothian.
Mr Neil said: “It must have happened on Saturday night. I went along on Sunday morning and found they were gone.
“They had broken in and stolen ten of my breeding pigeons, five male and five female. There were 12 of them in the loft but they didn’t take two. It looks like they used a screwdriver to get the padlock off.
“The loft is about ten feet by six feet. They would have to go inside to collect the birds, probably in a basket or box. Pigeons would not have made a lot of noise in the dark. They would have just allowed themselves to be picked up.
“They were my stock birds which never raced. I’d had them about four years. They are the thoroughbred ones and are worth about £300 each.
“I can’t say who might have stolen them. I’ve not fallen out with anyone so I can’t think why it happened. It was probably just random that they chose my loft. The compound has about eight or nine lofts in it for different owners.
“There isn’t really rivalry between pigeon racers. You want to win but not by doing that.”
Mr Neil said the stolen pigeons could be identified from rings attached around their feet shortly after birth, which made racing them impossible throughout the UK’s clubs.
He said: “The pigeons all have rings around their legs with my name on them, so no-one could use them in a race. The rings are put on them when they are a few days old.
“You couldn’t race or resell these pigeons to another owner. The only thing you could do is use them to breed more pigeons for sale.
“They’re not insured so I’ve been left out of pocket. I’ll have to try and get replacements.”
He added: “I was a miner for 27 years and pigeons was the big sport for miners. Most of the members at our club were miners.
“The pigeons we race are taken down to England on Friday night to places in Lancashire and so on. Then they are released and race back to the clubhouse. The first back is the winner.”
Mr Neil lives in Blackburn, West Lothian, with his wife, Catherine, 72, a retired cleaner, and the couple have nine grandchildren.
A police spokesman said: “The owner of the racing pigeons is distraught at the theft of his birds. Anyone who comes across the pigeons should contact police immediately.
“Similarly, we are keen to hear from anyone who can help us identify those responsible.”