A FAMILY have been left devastated after 12 of their valuable Koi Carp fish were stolen from the garden pond.

Michelle Brandon, 44, said she was blaming the credit crunch for the theft, as mature Koi Carp fish can sell for hundreds of pounds.

She was alerted to the theft by her father who was doing work in the garden of her house in Dukes Drive, Hoddlesden on Friday.

The mother of three said: “We had about 26 koi carp in the back garden pond which we left to us when we bought the house two years ago.

“They had become family pets. They each had names.

“All the neighbourhood children from all around to see them and my children looked after them.

“We kept a net hung up by the side of the pond to clear out leaves and things which had fallen in.

“Now someone has had the audacity to use that net to take 12 of the adult fish out of the pond.

“When my father told me what had happened I thought it might have been a heron, but then heron’s don’t use nets.

“I think it’s disgusting that someone has waited until we left the house and done it.

“Is this what the credit crunch has come to?

“You can pay over £60 for a koi carp at an aquarium, and they would be very hard to trace.

“To me it’s like someone coming and taking the family dog.

“I hope that someone will feel guilty enough to return them.”

Ward councillor Julie Slater said the thief was ‘very mean’ and added: ”They are taking away from the enjoyment of children in the village and destroying a collection that has taken years to accumulate.

“It can be soul destroying for people.

“I would urge people to be on the lookout for people acting suspiciously in the area to report it to the police.”

The theft has been reported to the police, and anyone with information, or who has seen someone acting suspiciously in the area during Friday daytime is asked to contact Darwen Police Station or ring 0845 1 25 35 45.