More swans have gone missing from a Weymouth bird reserve.

A week after the Dorset Echo reported the sad news that a family of mute swans were feared dead after being taken from the RSPB Radipole Lake reserve, it has been revealed that more of the protected birds have been targeted.

Swan warden at Radipole Lake Derek Davey claims a further nine birds, including some cygnets, have been stolen by thieves. This is on top of the seven which were taken previously and reported to police.

Police have said there is nothing to suggest the original family of swans were stolen.

The RSPB has also suggested an animal could be responsible, but that it was a 'mystery'.

Mr Davey is adamant that human thieves are at work.

He would not speculate on why the swans are being removed and by whom but said it was possible the birds were being targeted for food.

He has again asked people to be vigilant and to report any suspicious behaviour.

Swans are protected under the 1981 Wildlife Countryside Act which makes it illegal to keep or kill them.

Police were called in last week when Mr Davey discovered that two adult swans and five cygnets had been removed from their nesting area near the Buddleia Loop trail. A feather trail led to a layby on the nearby A354 Weymouth Way, suggesting thieves had parked their vehicle there.

Mr Davey said: "Unfortunately we believe nine more were taken from the far end of of Radipole Lake where there is no public access.

"I believe they parked a vehicle by the gate on Weymouth Way at the far end.

He added: "I've no doubt it is people taking them rather than an animal attack. I've been dealing with swans for many years and I know the signs. The feathers left are pristine; an animal could not have done that."

Tony Whitehead, spokesman for the RSPB in the South West, said there was a possibility a fox or another predator was responsible.

He added: "These things do happen, particularly to younger birds, but the reality is we just don't know. It's a mystery.

"The police have been down to the site.

"We would ask people to be vigilant and to report any suspicions."

Dorset Police said following enquiries about the missing swans reported last week "there is nothing at this time to suggest they were stolen".

But officers are still appealing for anyone with information to contact them.

Call police on 101 quoting occurrence number 55180142488.