A SECOND savage attack on a sheep in the New Forest area has heightened fears that a ‘death cult’ is roaming the woodlands at night.

The bloodied body of a sheep was discovered in the village of Cadnam, impaled on a pitchfork, with eight knife wounds and an upside-down cross made of hay displayed on its pelt.

The suspected ritual killing carries similarities to an attack in November where another sheep was found in the neighbouring area with pentagrams - the five-pointed star linked to devil worship – spray painted on its corpse.

The owner of the slaughtered ewe, Wendy Maughan commented: "I’m extremely saddened that we seem to live in a society where someone gets pleasure by attacking and stabbing to death innocent, non-aggressive animals. It was a terrible way for us to start the new decade.”

The ewe was discovered on January 2 and is the latest in a spate of incidents including a cow and two calves stabbed in the nearby Linwood area, which all survived their injuries.

Satanic symbols including inverted crosses and the number '666' have also been sprayed onto doors and signs at the 12th century St Peter’s Church in Bramshaw.

Villagers say ‘666’ has also been sprayed on roads in the area, including Godshill and Nomansland.

Reverend David Bacon blamed a rise in black magic in the area for the suspected satanic incidents: “People are concerned. I’ve been here 15 years and seen a lot of stuff, but nothing like this.

“It could just be kids, but I don’t think it is, given the context,” he continued. “There’s been witchcraft round here for hundreds of years – the New Forest is well known for witchcraft and black magic happening, and this has obviously gone up a level.”

Local police are keen to quell fears that a death cult is roaming the area at night, but in the meantime have ramped up patrols in the area.

A police spokesman admitted “it is currently unclear how the sheep died. A pitchfork was found at the scene, but it is not clear if it was used to kill the sheep. We are looking into all lines of enquiry and will link together similar crimes if the evidence allows us to.”

Anyone with information has been urged to call Hampshire police on 101.