Sheep slaughtered on fifth Northamptonshire farm in 10 days

Image caption Police have increased rural patrols to try to reassure sheep farmers

Nine lambs were slaughtered, butchered and thrown in a ditch in a fifth case of its kind in Northamptonshire in just 10 days.

The carcasses were found at a farm in Clipston, Northamptonshire Police said.

It follows similar killings on farms in Crick, Whilton, Kelmarsh and Rushton, the force said.

Officers are "taking these incidents very seriously", it said, confirming that it would hold a meeting with famers and the NFU.

The force has also been working with trading standards and environmental health officers over concerns the meat could enter the food chain.

Phil Neal, whose farm in Crick was the first hit by sheep killings last week, said: "To round the sheep up is a difficult enough task as it is, especially in the dark.

"To slaughter the animals in that way and cut them up as precisely as they did, they are clearly butchers and slaughter-men, that is not something the average man can do."

Image caption Katy Payne found 14 butchered sheep on her farm in Crick

Mr Neal's partner Katy Payne discovered the slaughtered sheep after she had picked up her two children from school.

She said she "just burst into tears on the spot" when she saw the bodies and her two children were "in the car screaming".

"I love my sheep and spend all my time looking after them," she added.

'Organised crime'

Sgt Sam Dobbs said: "I do want to reassure the farming community that we are taking these incidents very seriously."

Officers would be sent to any suspicious incidents "as a matter of urgency", he added.

Tim Price, of insurer NFU Mutual, said fewer than 10 claims for livestock being butchered in fields were received nationally each year, from 2016 to 2018.

"It appears to be an organised crime and the criminals seem to have an operation with an outlet that will sell the meat," he said.

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