FARMERS are being urged to be on the alert after a number of sheep were stolen and slaughtered for their meat.

Police believe the animals were taken and butchered in order to sell the meat on the Christmas market.

Officers were alerted when a member of the public reported finding the remains of a sheep in the River Ure just off Thorpe Road in Masham, North Yorkshire.

The find was made on Tuesday, December 11, but details have only just been released.

When police went to investigate, they found the remains of eight Suffolk cross fat lambs which had been left beside the river.

All the lambs’ identifying tags and marks had been removed.

Officers are now appealing to all farmers to be vigilant at this time and report anything suspicious to the police or Crimestoppers.

Wildlife and rural crime co-ordinator PC Gareth Jones said: “All farmers with this particular breed of sheep are asked to check their stock and report any missing animals to their local police station.

“Please be aware that at this time of year stock is vulnerable and ensure that you take reasonable steps to secure gates and make it difficult for anyone trying to steal your sheep.”

Anyone with any information is urged to contact North Yorkshire Police on 101, select option two – and ask for Gareth Jones. Alternatively contact Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555111.