Farmer’s fury over rustlers

Macclesfield Express - - BARLOW’S BRIEF - KAREN BRIT­TON

AFARMER says he has now had more than 200 sheep stolen from his fields af­ter thieves struck again.

Chris Heath, 35, of Sut­ton End Farm, Higher Sut­ton, has had more than 200 sheep taken over re­cent years – worth around £30,000.

Eleven shear­ling ewes were taken from his field last month, each worth an es­ti­mated £200.

This fol­lowed in­ci­dents in July 2013 when four pedi­gree Bel­tex ewes and 33 lambs were stolen, and in 2010 57 ewes worth £160 each and 114 lambs were taken.

It comes as fig­ures from in­surer NFU Mu­tual shows

‘It’s well or­gan­ised, they are pro­fes­sional. It’s our liveli­hood’

ru­ral crime is on the rise, with in­ci­dents of live­stock theft - or sheep rustling - up 25 per cent in 2013, one of the worst years on record.

Chris, who is mar­ried to He­len and dad to Holly, eight, and Robin, six, said: “The sheep rustling tends to hap­pen from the mid­dle to the end of July, when the lambs are about ready to take to mar­ket.

“It’s well or­gan­ised, they are pro­fes­sional and know what they’re do­ing. It’s hap­pen­ing all the time now and it’s get­ting worse. It makes me re­ally an­gry, it’s our liveli­hood.

“Ru­ral crime has never been higher and agri­cul­ture can’t stand it any longer.”

The Heath fam­ily has run the farm for four gen­er­a­tions. Chris works along­side dad Ken­neth and mum Chris­tine. They have around 1,400 ewes on 500 acres at Higher Sut­ton and 200 acres at Chelford. The sheep have elec­tronic tags but Chris says thieves may cut these off be­fore sell­ing the an­i­mals. He says cut­backs in ru­ral polic­ing make farm­ers more vul­ner­a­ble.

He said: “We used to have po­lice­men who knew every­one and would come ev­ery few days, but now there’s no-one around to stop these in­ci­dents.

“It’s get­ting tougher and tougher to sur­vive as farm­ers, our bot­tom lines are get­ting less and we’re be­ing squeezed by the su­per­mar­kets, we don’t need this.

“We need peo­ple’s help in tack­ling these crimes. We ask peo­ple to keep an eye out and re­port it if they see some­one act­ing sus­pi­ciously.”

The 11 Shear­ling ewes were stolen be­tween around 4.30pm on Sun­day, July 27, and around 10.30am on Wed­nes­day, July 30. Po­lice say they are in­ves­ti­gat­ing the thefts.

Mac­cles­field NPU In­spec­tor Steve Grif­fiths said: “We take ru­ral crime very se­ri­ously and we recog­nise the im­pact that in­ci­dents such as theft can have on mem­bers of the farm­ing com­mu­nity.”

He said that po­lice had es­tab­lished a Ru­ral Watch scheme and hold ru­ral meet­ings. He added there is also a ru­ral beat of­fi­cer who is ded­i­cated to look­ing out for our ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties and that a twoway com­mu­ni­ca­tion tool called Cheshire Po­lice Alert had been launched en­abling po­lice to warn mem­bers of the pub­lic about crime in their lo­cal area. Con­tact po­lice on 101 with in­for­ma­tion.

●● Chris Heath

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