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Livestock rustling becoming big business for thieves with rural police under resourced

NFU Mutual said it had noticed a spate of significant cases of sheep rustling, with the crime having turned from a local to organised crime, with large numbers of sheep being stolen.


Lauren   Dean

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Lauren   Dean
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The remains of the ewe stolen from Johnson's Farm, Wasperton.
The remains of the ewe stolen from Johnson's Farm, Wasperton.
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Police ‘inaction’ sees sheep rustling cases rise

Livestock rustling has become big business for thieves with under resourced police failing to bring them to justice.

 

A Freedom of Information request to police forces in England and Wales revealed 9,635 sheep were stolen in 2018, but Herefordshire Police was the only force to take any action.

 

Oliver Johnson, Wasperton, Warwickshire, caught six eastern European men in his yard at about 1am on March 7, and while it took only 10 minutes for the police to turn up with a dog unit, they since had not taken ‘anything seriously’.

 

A tip-off on Facebook later alerted the farm to the remains of the heavily in-lamb ewe – and her two lambs – dumped inside a bin bag next to some communal bins in Coventry.


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Mr Johnson said: “I got up at about 1am and heard voices. Then I saw something rush out of the yard and up the drive, so I went to have a look with the torch and saw three more guys trying to hide.

 

“It was not until the morning that I looked back on CCTV and realised there were six of them and they had beat the living daylights out of the ewe.”

 

Trouble

Mr Johnson went to the address of the bagged remains and confirmed the tag numbers were his.

 

The vehicle of the suspected men had a Romanian number plate, he said.

 

NFU Mutual said it had noticed a spate of significant cases of sheep rustling, with the crime having turned from a local to organised crime, with large numbers of sheep being stolen.

The insurer’s claims figures showed the cost of livestock theft rose from £2.2m (£2,244,000) in 2016 to £2.4m (£2,410,00) in 2017.

 

Sheep farmer Martyn Robinson, Yaddlethorpe, Lincolnshire, said local farmers had been having ‘a lot of trouble’ with sheep rustling and they wanted police to act.

 

“All they do is give you a crime reference number and ask if you want counselling,” he said. “We caught a guy red handed and it turned out he had a sheep pen in his backyard and a freezer full of meat.

 

“He was arrested but they have let him go.”

NFU Mutual top tips:

To deter livestock thieves, NFU Mutual advises farmers to:

  • Padlock field gates
  • Ensure stock is clearly marked and records are up-to-date
  • When possible graze livestock in fields away from roads
  • Check stock regularly and vary times of feeding/ check ups
  • Consider a high-tech marking system such as TecTracer which puts thousands of coded microdot markers into each sheep’s fleece
  • Ask neighbours to report any sightings of unusual vehicles loading sheep
  • Join a FarmWatch scheme
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