POLICE have arrested five people on suspicion of conspiracy to steal following a spate of sheep thefts across the North Pennines.

To date, police have seized 150 Swaledale sheep believed to have been stolen from hill farms in Teesdale in County Durham, Cumbria and North Yorkshire.

Just last week, two animals were discovered during an extensive police search of moorland south of the A66.

The recent arrests, of four men aged between 40 and 67 and one woman aged 39 from the Teesdale area, bring the total number of people on bail in relation to the alleged offences up to six.

Earlier this month, a local man in his forties was arrested on suspicion of theft.

Durham Police are working closely with Cumbria Police and Durham County Council’s Trading Standards to find those responsible for the thefts.

Inspector Kevin Tuck, said it was a complex investigation and added: “Anyone with information relating to the enquiry should contact DC Debbie Morrison or PC Harry Marsh at Barnard Castle Police Office on 101.

“Farmers in Cumbria who have concerns can make contact with PC Roly Earl from Appleby Neighbourhood Police Team.”