Youths in Malmesbury have been praised by police for helping to search for the elderly owner of a loose dog.

The youngsters, who were in Station Yard car park on Monday night, contacted police after growing increasingly concerned for the safety of Austin Preston, 83, after seeing his dog run in and out of a nearby wooded area.

Believing he may have fallen or been injured in the woodlands, the teenagers trudged through mud to capture the Welsh Border Collie, Skye, and assisted police with their search, until the pensioner was found at home upset after losing his pet.

Mr Preston, of Corn Gastons, said: “I was so surprised to see them (the youths) stood at my door.

“I just said thank you to them but I said to my wife after that I should have invited them in for a cup of tea to warm them up.

“I was so relieved to have Skye back.

“I’m often down there in Station Yard car park and I never have any trouble with the young people there at all; I find every one of them to be very good.”

Sergeant Martin Alvis, of Malmesbury Police, said: “This is what community is all about; local people looking out for each other.

“The young people didn’t have to bother and this age group often get a negative press a lot of the time for no reason at all.

“As far as I am concerned, events like this shows the young people in their true light.”

PC Rachel Webb was on duty and responded to the calls from the youths that evening.

“The dog is a rescue dog that Austen has had for about five years,” she said.

“The young ones that hang around down there had obviously seen the dog before and picked up on the fact that he was running in and out of the woods.

“It kept going back in so they called the police because their concern was that it belonged to this man and they didn’t know if he had maybe fallen in the river or in the woods.

“Without their help that night we might never have known and the elderly man could have been seriously injured; thankfully he wasn’t but it could have been a different story.”