A hedgehog suffered a slow and painful death after being set alight by a group of youths in Cornwall.

The healthy adult hedgehog was first sprayed with aerosol before being burnt to death.

After being rescued by a passer-by, identified as Laura Merrifield, 26, from Redruth, on the evening of 12 August, the animal was taken to an emergency veterinary treatment centre, CVets.

"We see enough horrible things, but this is simply inexcusable," said Veterinary surgeon Sharon Stevens, reported BBC News.

Speaking about Merrifield who brought the rescued animal to the centre, Stevens said: "She heard the boys shouting 'it's still alive, go on do it again' and they knew what they were doing.

"If it had been a cat, it could have fought back, but all a defenseless hedgehog can do is curl up in a ball.

"It was in the wrong place at the wrong time and has suffered this horrible attack. All its spines were burned and it would have suffered badly. I just hope those boys feel sorry and ashamed of what they've done."

The hedgehog had already died before arriving at the centre.

Both the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) and the Cornwall police have been alerted about the incident.

"We received a report that two or three youths had injured and maimed a hedgehog and it died while it was being taken to the vets," said a spokesman for the Cornwall police, reported the Herald.

Anyone who witnessed the incident or with information about those responsible should contact Devon and Cornwall Police on 101, quoting log number 195 of August 12.