A drunken chef found covered in blood and feathers after strangling a wild swan escaped being sent to jail yesterday.
It is believed that Mohammed Miah, who has worked as a curry chef, intended to cook the bird.
Yesterday he was given a three-month suspended jail sentence after admitting intentionally killing a protected bird.
Miah, 29, throttled the sleeping swan on the banks of the Great Ouse river in Bedford in the early hours of the morning last month.
He was spotted by two night porters at a nearby hotel, who called police.
Officers who stopped him in the town centre found the mute swan's body in a binbag nearby.
When asked about why he was covered in blood, the father-of-two claimed he had been fighting in a local nightclub.
Toby Earnscliffe, prosecuting for the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, told Bedford magistrates: 'He was seen to pounce on one of the sleeping swans, he grabbed it around the neck and tried to kill the swan.
'The swan was seen flapping around on the floor and subsequently died. The night porter saw the defendant twisting the neck.
'The porter said he was very shocked about what he had seen - it was upsetting to see the swan put in a black plastic bag.
'When the police spoke to him he didn't have the bag, but they could tell he was quite clearly very intoxicated.
'He had blood on his ear, forehead, nose, hands, his jacket and his jeans.
'He also had blood on his shoes and a white feather stuck on his hand. When asked where the blood came from, he said he's probably been fighting.'
Handing down a 12-week jail sentence suspended for a year, Chief Magistrate Alan Painter said: 'We have seen the photos, they are appalling and show the suffering that bird must have undergone.
'I think the matter clearly crosses a threshold for custody. Having said that, we give you credit for the fact that you pleaded guilty to this offence at the first opportunity and that you have now shown remorse.'
Under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, the maximum sentence for killing a wild bird is six months in prison or a £5,000 fine.
RSPB spokesman John Clare said: 'The law says that it is illegal to intentionally kill, injure or take a wild bird, and the Bedford swan strangler did all three.
'He should have had the book thrown at him.'
Mark Thomas, investigating officer for the RSPB - when asked if Miah had been a chef and had killed the bird to cook it - said: 'That has been alleged throughout.
'I think the fact that he went back to collect the bird in a bag and was then quite happy walking away with it raises questions about what he was going to do with the body.
'I know four different people have gone to jail for killing swans, so Mr Miah is very fortunate.
'This killing was savage - in 15 years' experience in dealing with these cases, I've never, ever, seen anything like this.'