ANIMAL lover Serafino Divito let his heart rule his head when he caught the culprit responsible for a three-year reign of terror in his back garden.

The retired grocer set a series of elaborate traps in his garden following a spate of attacks on the chickens and rabbits he breeds at his Accrington home.

But when he caught a wild fox in his snares, he did not have the heart to kill it even though he has lost dozens of animals in the last three or four years.

He is now hoping the predator has learned her lesson and will stay away from his garden.

And he is so proud he managed to catch a live fox that he is going to send copies of the photographs to his relatives in Italy and Australia.

Mr Divito, 65, of Pinewood Drive, said: “The attacks have been going on for ages and on some nights I lost 12 to 14 chickens and rabbits.

“But the wife and I are both animal lovers and when it came to it I just couldn’t bring myself to kill the fox.”

When he released the fox, she ran off about 30 yards away and before she disappeared into the woods she turned round and looked at him.

Mr Divito added: “I am sure she was saying thank you for letting her go. Touch wood she has earned a lesson and won’t be coming back to bother us again.”

When the attacks began, he thought it might be a vicious dog and complained to the police but they said they could do nothing unless he knew who was responsible.

He decided to leave some snares but had no luck and decided to make it harder for the predator to escape and made double traps.

Mr Divito added: “I was delighted when I checked the traps and found the fox. She was very scared and it took her a long time to cut her free.

“You have to be very careful how you handle foxes because they can be very vicious.”