ARSONISTS have targeted a pigeon fancier for the fifth time in 10 years leaving him devastated.

Police said 50 racing pigeons, worth thousands of pounds, were killed in the blaze which destroyed a wooden cabin.

The birds were the “pride and joy” of Geoffrey Williams, 74, who has been keeping pigeons at his allotment in Padiham for 50 years.

Two fire crews from Padiham tackled the blaze at Mr Williams’ allotment, in Quarry Street, at around 5.30pm on Wednesday.

Mr Williams was too upset to talk yesterday.

He was previously targeted in November 2006, when he lost 60 birds in an arson attack and a similar incident in March 2008 which killed 100 birds and two pet rabbits.

His daughter Julie Williams blasted the arsonists as ‘senseless morons’ while the North West regional president of the Royal Pigeon Racing Association said it was ‘very sad’.

She said that her father was ‘physically sick’ when he saw the burnt out shed.

Miss Williams, 46, a manager at the nearby Hilton Residential Lodge, said: “This is his life. He never takes holidays, even on Christmas Day he’s down here tending to the birds.

“He’s lost thousands of pounds before because of the previous attacks.

“He’s won hundreds of prizes with them. They are his pride and joy.

“He built the fencing around the place himself, and he used to have a dog for security but was told he couldn’t have one any more when new houses were built.”

Mr Williams, a former miner and slaughterhouse worker, lives in Partridge Hill Street with his wife Sheila, 70.

He has kept pigeons at the allotment since 1962.

She said that after the previous incidents the family had taken turns in keeping a watch on the sheds as they feared another attack would happen. She said: “We’re hoping dad will start again but he’s very down at the moment. He doesn’t know what to do and he still in a state of shock.

“We won’t be able to start working on clearing up and repairing the area until the weekend.”

Proven racing-stock pigeons cost more than £100 each.

Miss Williams estimates the cost of damage from all five incidents is around £50,000.

Brian Tattersall, North West regional president of the Royal Pigeon Racing Association, said: “I can’t believe people would take this sort of action against someone enjoying a healthy pastime. He’s not a young man and the sport gives him something to live for.”

Duncan Barker-Brown, watch manager at Padiham station, said: “We are treating it as deliberate and we’ll be helping the police with their investigations.

“The shed is wooden and has suffered 100 per cent fire damage. It is likely to have been targeted from the outside on purpose.”