Sheep rustlers convicted of £35k theft of pedigree ewes

Burnley Crown Court.
Burnley Crown Court.

Two sheep rustlers have been convicted of stealing livestock worth more than £35,000.

Following an extensive investigation, the men have now been convicted of theft after DNA evidence from the stolen ewes taken in raids from farms in Lancaster and Skipton, confirmed they were the missing sheep when officers raided Lathams Farm, near Slaidburn.

Thomas Redfern, 25, denied being involved in the burglary of 88 ewes after the animals were taken in raids at Curwen Hill Farm, Wray, near Lancaster and Newton Hall Farm, Skipton.

Andrew Piner, 45, the manager at Lathams Farm, near Slaidburn, admitted theft at an earlier hearing at Lancaster Castle but after standing trial at Preston Crown Court, the jury also found Redfern unanimously guilty of two counts of theft relating to the sheep.

Preston Crown Court heard farmer Daniel Towers had invested his life savings in the flock at Curwen Hall Farm, Wray.

In September 2013, Redfern was working as a stockman at Newton Hall Farm when 30 crossbred mule ewes were stolen, with a value of £5,000.

Five months later in February 2014, 58 pedigree Beltex and recipient mule ewes carrying Beltrex embryos were stolen following a burglary at Curwen Hill Farm near Wray, Lancaster.

The value of that theft was in excess of £30000.

Officers from Lancashire Police’s rural crime unit launched an investigation which led to Lathams Farm being searched under a warrant.

Stolen sheep from both burglaries were found at the farm and at another address nearby, rented by Piner.

PC Andrew Massingham, Community Beat and Wildlife officer for the Lower Lune Valley and investigating officer, said: “These offences had a significant impact on the local community as they were committed by people working within and trusted by the farming community.

“It is completely unacceptable that people in such positions carry out these despicable crimes which affect the lives and livelihoods of those concerned.

“As a result of these offences Lancashire Constabulary has worked and is working very closely with the NFU and farmers in the area and has created the Farmers Network.

“There is a very close working relationship with the rural community, which has been bolstered by this result at court.

“It sends a clear and unequivocal message that crime within rural areas is unacceptable, will be investigated and those concerned will be brought to justice wherever possible”.

Redfern, of Chisholme Close, Standish, and Piner, of Deer House Cottages, Gisburne, will be sentenced together at Burnley Crown Court on November 10.