PRINCE HARRY has played down reports he may have been responsible for shooting dead two rare birds of prey on the Queen’s Sandringham estate last Wednesday.

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However the young royal has stopped short of issuing an outright denial.

A spokesperson said the Prince had “no knowledge of the alleged incident” in which Hen Harriers (pictured), a species protected by law, were sent to their deaths.

“Because Prince Harry and a friend were both in the area at the time, the police have been in contact with them, and asked them if they have any information that could help,” explained the spokesperson.

Some reports suggest Prince Harry and his friend were the only people out shooting at the time of the birds’ deaths and police are continuing with their investigation.

There are reckoned to be only 20 breeding pairs of Hen Harriers in the whole of England, partly the result of persecution over the years by game keepers trying to protect grouse, one of the favoured bird species for shooting.

Being found guilty of killing Hen Harriers carries a maximum punishment of a six month prison sentence.