A collection of pigeons belonging to the father of former Northern Ireland international David Healy have been incinerated in a suspicious fire.
Clifford Healy, 64, was horrified to discover his shed full of birds was aflame on Friday night.
Out of 20 birds living in the pigeon loft in Killyleagh, Co Down, there was just one survivor – although the creature was left with charred feathers.
Mr Healy said from now on she will be known as “Lucky”.
He was at a friend’s house at around 9pm when he got a call from his daughter alerting him to what was going on.
“I thought it was a wind-up or something,” he said. “I got up there quick. But it was too late.”
He said there had been a similar incident in about 1995, when someone had broken in and mutilated his birds.
Asked why he would be targeted, he said: “I don’t know. I wish I could ask them why – why have they done this?”
Asked if it could be anything to do with his recently-retired son David, he was sceptical.
“I don’t see why; David doesn’t annoy people,” he said.
“Only when he scores a goal and annoys the opposition.
“He actually phoned me when I was at the shed trying to put it out. He was just stunned – he couldn’t believe it.”
The Fire and Rescue Service said they sent two fire engines to the scene, and both they and police confirmed that the blaze was suspicious.
The pigeons were to be bred for racing said Mr Healy, who has pursued the hobby for the last 31 years.
“Everybody thinks I should know who did it, but I don’t,” said Mr Healy, a retired builder and factory worker.
“My pigeons have done pretty well over the years. People say ‘is this the reason (for the fire)?’ But another pigeon man wouldn’t do this.”
There are some youths who drink around the sheds, but he added that whenever they are finished, they always put their bottles neatly into the bins provided, concluding: “Kids that have the manners to do that wouldn’t burn your shed.”
He had also been heartened by offers of support, including an offer to replace the 10ft-by-6ft shed with a 16ft-by-8ft one.
Although thankful, he has decided not to accept the help.
Mr Healy has about 60 pigeons remaining.
Anyone with information about the fire can contact detectives on 0845 600 8000.