A BULLET found inside the body of a dead seal has confirmed the pregnant animal was shot in the Walton backwaters, it has been revealed.

Investigations were launched after the bodies of two seals, which live in the backwaters, were found washed up in Walton on January 6.

After the RSPCA issued an appeal for information, thousands of people shared the story.

Sea Shepherd UK, a conservation charity which aims to prevent and discourage the illegal killing of seals, also offered up a reward of £3,000 in an attempt to find the attackers.

Now, voluntary group Essex Marine Mammal Rescue and Research has announced the findings of necropsy on the body of one of the seals.

A spokesman said: “Back in January two dead seals were found with what looked like bullet wounds.

“One of the seals was taken to Cetacean Stranding Investigation Program based at London Zoo for a necropsy to be carried out.

“It was confirmed that all assumptions regarding the death of the seals were in fact correct.”

A report written by Rob Deaville from CSIP said: “This adult seal was in very good nutritional condition at death and was also pregnant with a two to three month term foetus.

“It had been reported stranded along with another common seal and various reports linked the deaths to shooting.

“The examination found the cause of death to be consistent with shooting, with a single entry wound between the fore flippers.

“The bullet had penetrated part of the heart and the edge of the left lung.

“ The bullet was recovered during the examination and appeared to be largely intact.

“It was provisionally identified as a .22 calibre from the width and has been retained.”

Tony Haggis, who runs tours of the backwaters, found the dead seals at the time.

He said: “It’s so sad, I wait 12 months to see the mothers give birth.

“We believe four were seen dead in the water by angler but only two were found washed up.

“Unfortunately they don’t have evidence of who did this and it’s gone cold.

“But by being public those who did it know everyone is watching and looking out.”

Tony said there are currently lots of seal pups in the backwaters though he believes some were born prematurely and died, which he says is down to people disturbing and distressing the mothers.

He added: “I try to tell people to keep their distance and not to disturb them, it’s very important they are allowed to rest.

“It’s about respect.”

An RSPCA spokesperson said: “We applaud the efforts in trying to find out what happened to the seals, and urge anyone who might have any information to get in touch as soon as they can.”

If you have any information please contact Essex Marine Police, who are still investigating, at marineu@essex.pnn.police.uk