A FARMER was horrified to discover the bloodied remains of four of his sheep after they were slaughtered and butchered in a field.

The 72-year-old said the grim discovery was upsetting and left him feeling like his animals – each one a different character he knew – had been murdered in cold-blood.

He and his wife, 68, are retired but still keep a small flock of sheep on land near Willington, County Durham.

On Monday morning he went to check on eight of the mule sheep he was growing to sell for breeding but when he sent his dogs to round them up, they only came back with four.

He hoped they were sheltering under trees from the sun but when he walked around the field to look for them, he was devastated to find the head and bones of one.

He said: “There was blood all over the place, it was awful to see the poor thing.

“My wife came up and was in tears.

“We had a good walk around the field and she shouted ‘I’ve found them’, here were two Tesco bed covers and inside the remains of three sheep.

Darlington and Stockton Times:

“They’d been poached and butchered right there in the field, it was very distressing and upsetting, especially when I had to get my son and grandson to help lift those ones out of the way before they contaminated a beck that runs along the field.

“I know all their faces and characters, I feel like they’ve been murdered in cold blood.

"It won’t have been done humanely. Their eyes were still open, I keep imagining these people planning coming to my field and then hacking away at them.”

Darlington and Stockton Times:

The shepherd, who said as a stocksman from a farming family he knows all his animals individually, believes the sheep were poached for meat.

However, all of them were on various medications – including insecticide spray to prevent fly strike – which made them unsafe for the food chain for a number of weeks.

He said: “There is a public health risk, but it is not my fault.

“I was doing the right thing looking after my livestock like I always do but they should not enter the food chain because the meat could poison people.

“It is quite unbelievable what has happened, it is shocking that anyone would do this.”

Darlington and Stockton Times:

The matter was reported to Durham police, which is now investigating, and other farmers have been alerted through Weardale Farmwatch, UK Farmwatch and social media.

A spokeswoman for Durham Constabulary said: “We have received a report that several sheep have been stolen from a farm in Willington overnight on Sunday, June 13, and subsequently butchered.

“This has obviously been very distressing for the owner who has discovered them nearby and our enquiries are ongoing to trace those responsible."

Anyone with information is urged to call Durham Constabulary on 101, quoting incident 152 of June 14.