Police urge vigilance after 24 sheep illegally butchered in field near Rugby

Authorities are renewing their appeal for rural communities to be vigilant and report any suspicious activity, after 24 sheep were slaughtered and illegally butchered in a field near Harborough Magna this week.

Warwickshire Police said the the sheep were killed in the field between the evening of Tuesday July 16 and Wednesday morning July 17.

Sheep

Sheep

This new incident means that since the beginning of the year, 103 sheep have been reported butchered in fields and 74 sheep have been reported stolen from farms in Warwickshire.

Rural Crime Inspector Allison Wiggins said "We have from the beginning of the incidents been working with colleagues in neighbouring forces who have experienced similar incidents, sharing best practice, intelligence and information.

"We would like to reassure the rural community that since the incidents occurred in March, Warwickshire Police put in place Operation Hillman with procedures to ensure incidents are followed up and all means of enquiry followed through.

"All relevant staff are briefed and proactive actions taken where possible.

"The investigation and operation is ongoing and everything is being done to catch the offenders.

"The importance of communities to be vigilant, report anything suspicious in or near fields of livestock cannot be underestimated. Thank you to those that have done so already, it has been a great help. "

Police are also appealing for information on where this meat may be going to, any suspicious circumstances or information of concern to the traceability of meat in any communities, as this is not just in Warwickshire.

Theft and illegal butchery of sheep is a serious offence, which causes suffering to the animals, financial repercussions to farmers, plus puts at risk people's health if they eat the meat.

Police believe the following about the incidents:

- 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 and away from any properties

Police have provided the following crime prevention advice:

- If you own livestock or live near fields with livestock in please be extra vigilant and report any concerns to the 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 or a heavy item to block access

Padlock field gates, turn or cap the hinges so that they cannot be let off and ensure gates and boundaries are in good order

Consider checking your sheep at different times of the day, including on clear nights and the early hours of the morning

Join the Rural Watch scheme and put gate signs up

Consider setting up a WhatsApp group to share information

If possible graze other animals with sheep to deter offenders

Contact your rural crime adviser to discuss crime prevention equipment, cameras etc

Put your safety first and dial 999 if you believe an incident is in progress

Inspector Wiggins added "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."

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

Information can also be emailed to NorthWarwickshireRuralAlerts@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