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Equine charities are horrified after apples with pins and nails pushed into them were eaten by horses in East Sussex.

Police are investigating after more than 15 apples were thrown in a field in Whiteway Lane, Rottingdean, on Saturday morning (18 September).

The fruit had been spiked with dressmaker pins and two inch screws and nails. Some of the apples had been half eaten and nine horses are being checked for internal injuries. The results are still pending.

“This attack sounds truly horrifying,” said World Horse Welfare chief executive Roly Owers.

“It goes without saying that these needles could inflict severe pain and cause immense damage to any horse that bit into one of the apples. By the sound of it that is exactly what was intended.

“I sincerely hope that the perpetrators are very quickly identified and prosecuted. A clear message must be sent out that this is nothing other than an act of wanton cruelty, which is completely unacceptable.”

An RPSCA spokesman added: “This is an appalling incident and we would warn horse and pony owners in the area to be vigilant, and urge anyone with any information to come forward in the hope that the person who has done this can be caught and prosecuted.”

A police investigation is ongoing.

A spokesman for Sussex Police said: “This is an alarming incident. We are carrying out house-to-house inquiries to see if anyone has seen anything and to check if there is a history of any problems in the area.”

Anyone with information should contact Sussex Police on 0845 60 70 999