POLICE OFFICERS have arrested two men in connection to a spate of illegal sheep slaughters in the East Midlands.

Northamptonshire Police said a 23-year-old man and a 35-year-old man from Birmingham were detained in the early hours of Monday morning (Oct 7), after officers responded to a report of suspicious activity near Welford, and subsequently stopped a vehicle on the A14. The stopped vehicle was seized by officers for forensic examination.

There have been 13 recorded incidents of illegal slaughterings on farms in the English county since February, with at least 145 sheep and lambs killed and butchered in the open. In addition, there have been eight recorded incidents of sheep and lamb thefts, with 258 sheep and lambs reported stolen.

In response to this local crimewave, police launched an investigation called Operation Stock, and began conducting rural patrols by vehicle, bicycle and even from the air, using a drone, concentrating on the hours of darkness.

The drone, owned in partnership with Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue Service, was fitted with thermal imaging equipment to monitor large areas overnight, looking for suspicious activity.

Earlier in the year, a Hampshire man was arrested in connection with the illegal butchering remains, but was released while inquiries continue, while a Coventry man arrested on suspicion of theft and criminal damage remains on police bail.