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Who shot the Goodleigh Giant? Huge stag is latest victim of poachers

The downed animal, believed to have been shot two or three times in the back and once in the belly, escaped the poachers' clutches

One of the country's most majestic stags which was on course to rival the famous Exmoor Emperor has been shot dead illegally by poachers, it emerged today.

The impressive young animal - dubbed the Goodleigh Giant - was gunned down on private land in the Shirwell area of North Devon.

He was expected to become one of the biggest stags in the country when fully mature because he already had an impressive 19 points on its antlers - compared to The Emperor's 14.

The Goodleigh Giant in all his glory, before being shot by poachers

Giant had become less wary as the rutting season approached and local landowners tried to keep him a secret for fear of trophy hunters tracking him down.

But rumour of the 200lb animal's presence spread and poachers descended on the region to get a glimpse or a shot at the stag, which would fetch thousands of pounds on the black market.

The death follows a series of stag slayings in the area as poachers target the impressive animals as trophies. They can also earn £1,000 for stags' heads.

News of the animal's demise also comes almost a year to the day after the country's largest wild animal - the 300lb 9ft Exmoor Emperor was gunned down.

Experts today branded the 'needless' slaying as 'unnecessary' and 'reprehensible'.

Stalked: The Emperor of Exmoor - believed to be Britain's largest wild land animal - was killed in October 2010 by suspected poachers

Peter Green, of Shirwell, near Barnstaple is veterinary advisor to the British Deer Society as well as the Royal parks of London and National Trust.

He said: 'There is therefore a legitimate place for the trophy shooting of older stags that have started to go back in condition and dominance, but the indiscriminate shooting of mature stags simply for trophies is reprehensible.

'On Monday October 17 the 19-point stag was found dead on private land locally.

'I examined the stag post-mortem to recover forensic material and found that he had been shot two or three times in the back and in the belly.

'He had undoubtedly suffered considerably from these wounds before dying slowly.

'He had travelled some distance from where he had been holding his hinds and had obviously managed to flee from the poachers, who had clearly taken indiscriminate pot-shots at him as he ran away.'

source: dailymail