MORE than 175 sheep have been stolen from fields in a spate of thefts over the last three months.

The first incident was reported to police on November 7 when 45 sheep were stolen from a gated and locked field on Corsham Road, Lacock.

On December 17, it was reported that 61 sheep had been stolen from a field in Broughton Gifford, Melksham.

Just 10 days later, 72 Romney breeding ewes were stolen from a field on the Bowood Estate, Derry Hill.

PC Emily Thomas said: “We are keeping an open mind but we believe these incidents may be linked and those responsible must be skilled sheep handlers with trained dogs as this kind of theft requires a high level or organisation to be conducted quickly and undisturbed.

“Often, those responsible will not look suspicious to passers-by unless you are local and know who the farmers in your area are.

“Our message to the public would be to always be vigilant and if you see any vehicles or people you do not recognise dealing with livestock in your area, please call 101 and report your concerns as well as any description of vehicle you are able to obtain as soon as possible. Even if it turns out the individuals are legitimate, we would rather be made aware so we can check all is well.

“While of course there is a financial loss to the farmers, this type of theft can also have an emotional impact as in some of these circumstances, it would have taken years of breeding to establish the flock. Not knowing what may have happened to the animals can be extremely upsetting.”

Anyone with information about any of the incidents should call 101 and quote crime reference number 54190124666.

If you know anyone who has been affected by these thefts, please email or call 01225 773616.