A spate of reported swan mutilations in Thamesmead has prompted concerned residents to set up patrols to protect them.

In the past few weeks, swans have reportedly been attacked around Southmere and Birchmere Lake.

Residents have said the swans have been decapitated, with the breast of the birds being opened and the bodies left in the parks.

Now, groups of them have started to take shifts in patrolling the lakes to protect the birds.

Danny Mercer, who is one of the organisers of Thamesmead Swan Patrol, explained: "Over the past few weeks around ten birds have been killed in and around the Thamesmead area.

"Dead swans have been found in numerous places around Southmere lake at first the locals thought it was foxes catching them.

"Then, earlier this week two swans were found gutted and butchered for their breast meat and the rest of the body's laid strewn on the side of the lake. We knew then something was wrong.

"Paul West and I decided to start a Swan Patrol and quickly other local residents started wanting to join in and help out. The Swan Patrol was to create a visual deterrent around Thamesmead lakes throughout the day and night and early hours."

Mr West told News Shopper the first body was found about two weeks ago by a dog walker.

He said: "Birds have been found and we don't think they were killed by animals. Their injuries are too malicious.

"People have been very supportive, this is where we live at the end of the day. The positive feedback is enough to keep us going, even just to deter the killer.

"I'm a dedicated guy and I have the time. I'm hoping to get a team of about 12 together."

Swan Patrol has been operating on a shift pattern throughout the day and night in a team of seven.

According to the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, swans are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and it is an offence to kill them.

Up until 1998 killing or injuring a swan was classed as treason, under an ancient law dating back to the 12th century.

Mr Mercer said: "Yesterday morning the killer hit Birchmere Lake. Three dead cygnets and a goose were found. The goose had been laid over a log and had its head cut off with a sharp tool. The tool mark still on the log.

"People have said they feel safer knowing Swan Patrol are out."

The patrol has been using UV rays to check swans for blood and drones to check the other banks and walkways.

It is not known whether the swan deaths are being linked to the Croydon Cat Killer, who has murdered animals in Bexley and Dartford in the last few weeks.