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Warwickshire Police ask rural communities to be vigilant following recent sheep deaths

Warwickshire Police and partners are urging rural communities to be vigilant and report any suspicious activity, after a number of incidents of sheep being stolen and illegally butchered in the county. Since 1 January 2019, 80 sheep or lambs have been reported butchered in fields and 29 sheep or lambs have been reported stolen from farms in Warwickshire.

It's reported that similar incidents have also recently taken place in Leicestershire and Northamptonshire, and officers are linking in with border forces as part of the investigation.

Carol Cotterill, Rural Crime Officer at Warwickshire Police said: "Theft and illegal butchery of sheep is a serious offence, which causes suffering to the animals some of which were in lamb or with lambs at foot and financial repurcussions to farmers. Enquiries are currently ongoing into the incidents and we would urge anyone who has witnessed any suspicious activity or has any information that could help with our enquiries to please come forward.

Police believe

  • incidents are more likely to happen on clear nights when there is better visibility from the moonlight - in particular when there is a fuller moon.
  • Offenders may be visiting the area beforehand in daylight to plan the crime
  • Offenders park a vehicle where they cannot be seen
  • Offenders are choosing quiet secluded locations near to main roads

Police are warning all sheep farmers and rural communities to stay extra vigilant and have provided the following advice:

Crime prevention advice

  • If you own livestock or live near fields with livestock in please be extra vigilant and report any concerns to police
  • Report suspicious vehicles to police
  • Where possible graze livestock in fields away from roads
  • Review any weak points in fields in remote locations in particular where sheep are grazed near a main road
  • If your field is down a quiet track consider parking a vehicle to block access
  • Padlock field gates and ensure gates and boundaries are in good order
  • Consider checking your sheep on clear nights, in the early hours of the morning
  • Join the Rural Watch scheme
  • Set up a Whatsapp group to share information
  • Consider grazing other animals with sheep to deter offenders
  • Contact your rural crime adviser to discuss crime prevention notices, cameras etc
  • Put your safety first and dial 999 if you believe an incident is in progress

"If you suspect someone has attempted to target your animals, or find that you've lost livestock in this way, please report it to police immediately."

"Members of the public should also be mindful of being offered meat for sale in suspicious circumstances."

George Bostock, NFU Warwickshire assistant country adviser, said: "The illegal slaughter of animals is abhorrent and we would urge anyone with information to get in touch with the police.

"Rural crime has a serious emotional impact on farming families as well as the disruption and financial burden it brings.

"Midlands' livestock farmers rear animals to exceptionally high welfare standards and all of our members care about their stock; to witness this at home, during lambing season, is absolutely appalling.

"Shoppers should always look out for the Red Tractor logo and other assurance marks on the food they buy as it guarantees food quality, safety and standards.

"The NFU will continue to work with Government, police forces and Police and Crime Commissioners to work towards solutions that allow farmers, who already feel isolated and vulnerable, to be better protected."

Police are pleased to confirm that there have been some positive results - with the arrest on 16 April of a man who had a dead sheep in his car and thanks to the vigilance of farmers and the public, several reports where offenders have been disturbed.  

Warwickshire Police is urging the public to remain vigilant and to report any suspicious activity by calling 101. 

Information can also be emailed to northwarksruralAlerts@warwickshire.pnn.police.uk in confidence or via Crimestoppers anonymously by calling 0800 555 111 or via their website.

For further advice on rural crime, please see here: www.warwickshire.police.uk/RuralCrime

and www.warwickshireruralwatch.co.uk

Notes for editors

Police are investigating the following incidents reported to police since January:-

On 27 January 2019, 4 ewes in lamb were stolen from a field near Willoughby. The remains of one was later found butchered in Northampton. (incident 89 of 27 March 2019)

On 2 March 2019, officers were called to an incident near Wibtoft, Rugby, where seven pregnant ewes were found to have been killed and butchered in a yard (incident number 179 of 2 March 2019).

At around 1am on 7 March 2019, officers were called to a farm in Wasperton, Warwick, where offenders were disturbed but took a pregnant ewe. Officers were called and responded, investigations are ongoing. Remains were later found in a bin in Coventry. (incident number 10 of 7 March 2019/281 10 March 2019).

On 9 March 2019, police were called to a farm on Banbury Road, Gaydon. It's reported nineteen ewes and ten lambs were killed and butchered in a field (incident number 110 of 9 March 2019).

On 21 March 2019 two rams that were breeding stock were stolen from a farm in Henley in Arden. (Incident 122 of 21 March 2019)

On 29 March 2019 7 ewes and 11 lambs were stolen overnight from a farm in Harborough Magna (incident 153 of 29 March 2019)

On 30 March 2019 the remains of 19 ewes were discovered after they had been butchered in a field near A5 Gibbett Hill, Rugby (incident 72 of 30 March 2019)

On 7 April 2019 four ewes were taken from a farm in Willoughby, Rugby. (incident 146 of 7 April 2019)

On 11 April 2019 the remains of twenty-four ewes were discovered butchered in a field near a broken fence in an unused service apron on the M6 J1 northbound.(incident 66 of 11 April 2019)

On 12 April 2019 the remains of a butchered lamb were found near a farm in Dorsington. (incident 240 of 12 April 2019)

On 13 April 2019 an 8 week old lamb was stolen from the Bishopton/Pathlow area and recovered after an alert member of the public followed a suspicious vehicle. The lamb was thrown out of the window on the A46 and suffered a graze to its leg. (incident 259 of 13 April 2019)

On 16 April 2019 a man was arrested in Rugby on suspicion of animal cruelty and other offences after a dead sheep was discovered in his car. Enquiries are ongoing to establish who owns the sheep. (incident 34 of 12 April 2019 / 479 of 15 April 2019)

On 21 April 2019 an offender  attempting to take a lamb from a field in Wootton Wawen, dropped the lamb when seen and made off in a vehicle described as a high vehicle with orange stripes, partial VRM taken as NXO8. (Incident 120 of 21 April 2019)  A horse rider was on the lane around the time the incident happened, if you were the rider or know who it was please call us or email.

Published 25/04/19