The goose whose death sparked a whodunnit mystery was not a victim of murder most fowl, tests have shown.After its body was found by the pond in Sandon, Hertfordshire, last month, villagers feared their much-loved gander had been shot.The 11-year-old male bird, known to locals as Goose, was buried near the pond but exhumed following claims it had been the victim of an airgun attack.

An anonymous animal-lover even offered a £250,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the gander’s killer. Speaking about the ‘shooting’, parish council clerk Helen Stubbings said: ‘I think it’s appalling that someone could come into a village in the middle of the day and shoot a defenceless animal.’There were children running around and if one of them had been hit, it would have been truly awful.’It could have easily ricocheted. The whole thing is just foolish.’People around here do own guns but not for target practice on an innocent goose.’

Landscape gardener Geoff Coombes, 36, who lives in the village, added at the time: ‘What happened to this goose is a crime, the police should be tracking them down to teach them a lesson.Anyone who thinks its fun to do this to an innocent animal deserves punishing.‘They’ve deprived an animal of a happy existence and the village has lost a real character.’

However yesterday, a spokeswoman for Herefordshire Police said: ‘A full forensic post mortem examination including a CT scan was carried out on the goose by veterinary pathologists at the Royal Veterinary College (RVC) on Thursday March 3.’This concluded the goose had not been shot. Whilst a precise cause of death remains unknown and more tests are being carried out at the RVC, a likely cause of death would be natural causes.’

The gander was often seen chaperoning new-born ducklings around the roads to keep them safe and even scared off foxes.It took shelter in the village’s decommissioned phonebox, where it would grow angry during the mating season which falls between February and March because it could see its own reflection, which it believed was another bird.More tests are now being carried out to determine exactly how it died.