A PRIZE-WINNING racing pigeon taken in a raid on the coop of a world-renowned breeder has escaped the clutches of his captors and found his way home.
Charville Dan, winner of the prestigious Barcelona Marathon of 2007, was one of 120 prize-winning birds taken during the burglary in the early hours of February 7.
The pigeons - said to be worth in the region of £200,000 - were bred and trained by Ken Hine, 77, of Charville Lane, Hayes.
After the theft he told the Gazette he was 'on the floor', saying the birds, his livelihood for more than 50 years, were irreplaceable.
Last Monday, Mr Hine was tending to some of his younger pigeons.
"I went to check some of the babies I keep in a separate loft - and there he was. I had to make sure but there was no question it was Charville Dan," he said.
"He is my favourite bird and it was amazing to see him just sitting there. I really wasn't expecting to see any of my birds again. Of course, there are a lot still missing but it's some consolation."
Mr Hine had suspected his birds were transported to Romania, where pigeon racing is popular and success in the sport can be lucrative. But the country is far too far for even the amazing homing instincts of a racing pigeon bred in the UK to make it back.
Since the raid on his loft, Mr Hine has had alarm systems fitted. He is thrilled to have his showpiece bird back, but doubts any more of his pigeons will follow suit.
"I don't know where he has been or how he got back but I'm glad he's home," he said.
"You could tell that he hadn't been looked after properly. He has some feathers missing, and just by looking at him, it's clear that he has had a good fly. I'll be sure to take good care of him and nurse him back to full health.
"Given the travels he's been on, we are thinking of renaming him Romania Dan!"
Hillingdon police say they are still investigating the whereabouts of the remaining birds.
* If you have any information, call Hillingdon CID on 020 8246 1445, or you can call Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111.