MOUTH-TO-MOUTH resuscitation was used to try and help save fish in Colchester’s Castle Park after vandals slashed a temporary tank.

Forty-five fish, including valuable koi carp, were killed during the attack.

It is alleged two youths were later spotted carrying a koi carp along Culver Street before dumping it on a car roof.

The fish were being kept in a special container while maintenance work was carried out on the Imola Garden Pond in Colchester’s Castle Park.

The fish had been removed from the pond and placed in the holding tank nearby ,while cleaning and water-leak repairs were undertaken, before they were due to be returned.

After the park closed on Wednesday vandals broke in and ruptured the tank with an unknown implement resulting in the loss of most of the water and with it the death of some of the oldest, rarest and most valuable of fish enjoyed by visitors for years.

Early on Thursday morning the damage was spotted by park staff who did what they could to save those which had not already suffocated.

A spokesman for Colchester Council said: “Thanks to quick-thinking park staff a number of fish were able to be saved.

“Staff even resorted to using mouth-to-mouth resuscitation on some of the larger fish, which, along with the other survivors, were moved to holding tanks inside the park’s storage barn.”

Annie Feltham, cabinet member for leisure, expressed her shock and horror after learning what had happened.

She said: “This was a mindless and sickening act of vandalism which has resulted in the deaths of a large number of fish in our care.

“I cannot begin to comprehend why anyone would carry out such a despicable act and think to spoil such a unique and well-loved feature within our wonderful park, killing defenceless fish who have given so much pleasure to visitors over many years.

“Had our park gardeners and park rangers not responded so quickly this morning, then we would have lost many more.

"I cannot praise them enough for their response in reviving some of the fish and quickly setting up new water tanks to contain the survivors.”

A spokesman for Essex Police said: "Police are investigating after temporary holding pools were damaged sometime between 9pm and 11.15pm on November 2.

"The damage caused fish to die and a koi carp was removed.

"Officers were contacted at 11.15pm with reports two youths were seen carrying a koi carp in Culver Street.

"It was then left on a car roof.

18-year-old Jamie Watson, a fast food employee of no fixed abode, has been charged with theft and causing unnecessary suffering to a protected animal.

He is due to appear at Colchester Magistrates’ Court on November 22.

A 16-year-old boy from Colchester has been released without charge.