A DARWEN family are 'heartbroken' after their 11-week-old puppy was found dead on their front gate ­— strung up by metal wire.

British Bulldog Wilma was stolen during a burglary at their house on Cranberry Lane, on Tuesday morning.

Andrew Bolland's family posted appeals on social media with a £1,000 reward for her return.

However, they were devastated to discover Wilma dead outside their house on Thursday morning.

The family, including children Penelope, 2, Josh 10 and Dominic 13, are 'distraught'.

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Mr Bolland, 36, said: "We got up at around 7am and my partner Gemma was getting picked up at 7.40am to go to work.

"All we heard was shouting outside and Gemma's auntie ran in shouting: 'They have killed her, they have killed her'.

"Gemma ran out and she saw Wilma tied up to our front gate with metal wire.

"We tried to revive her after she was pulled down. She was cold and my partner's dad who has dogs reckons she had been there since about 5am or 6am.

"We did not hear anything when we woke up or even at night.

"She must have been tied up there. We don't know if she was too high off the ground and she had been hanging or the metal wire was too tight and she could not get free."

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The self-employed builder added: "We are just so heartbroken about it and I am just so angry. 

"I am questioning humanity at the minute and we are all in shock."

Thieves had broken into the house on Tuesday morning while the family were out. They ransacked the children's bedrooms before stealing keys for a Mercedes 4x4 ML, which was recovered near Marsh House Lane.

A paintball gun and some cash were also stolen, as well as the family's beloved puppy.

They have reported the incident to the police.

Mr Bolland said: "The forensics have been here dusting for prints to see if they could find out who had her.

"If the dog was too hot to handle then why did they not just return it? We would have given a reward, we just don't care and wanted our puppy back as the family loved her.

“The kids are utterly distraught. I have never seen my children so upset.”

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A Lancashire Police spokesman said: "We were called at 7.48am this morning to reports a puppy had been found dead outside an address on Cranberry Lane, Darwen.

"The dog, an English bulldog called Wilma, was found on the ground. She had been secured to the gate with a makeshift lead. 

"The puppy had been stolen during a burglary at the property on March 19.

"Our thoughts are with Wilma’s owners at this distressing time.

"Enquiries are ongoing. Anyone with information is asked to call 101 quoting log number 814 of 19th March."