REMAINS OF a further 25 sheep have been found in the English county of Northamptonshire, where at least 143 have been illegally slaughtered this year.

The discovery was made on Monday in a field near Thornby, about 11 miles north of Northampton, and follows the pattern set by previous crimes, of sheep apparently professionally butchered so that their meat might be sold on the black market.

Northamptonshire Police repeated its recent warning that illegally butchered meat may not be safe to eat.

Insp Tracy Moore said: "Unsurprisingly, the owner of these sheep is devastated and my officers are working around the clock to bring whoever is responsible for these monstrous acts to justice. The pace of this investigation is unrelenting and proactive officers continue to patrol the county's rural areas both day and night.

"We remain concerned about illegal meat entering the human food chain, as recent use of veterinary medication could mean it's unfit for human consumption."

At least 143 sheep have been illegally killed in the Midlands county since the start of the year, including 37 lambs taken in three separate incidents at a farm near Whilton, near Daventry, since February, and at least 26 lambs and ewes butchered in a field near Northampton last month.

As a result of police investigations, two men have been arrested, but no-one has yet been charged – and the incidents have not stopped.