POLICE in Wales are claiming a crime-fighting first, after using DNA evidence from a cow to prove that it was stolen.

Dyfed-Powys Police took DNA from a disputed heifer, and compared it to samples from cows on the farm from which it had allegedly been stolen, seeking to prove a familial link.

The investigation started in December 2017, when a farmer reported the theft of one of his 300 cows. The animal had escaped from his field four months earlier, and had then been spotted in a neighbour's field, apparently retagged.

PC Gareth Jones visited the farm and was shown a cow passport, listing ear tag numbers for the cow in question and the animal Owens alleged was its mother.

Blood samples were taken for DNA comparison.

"It was established through DNA tests that the heifer listed on the cow passport was not related to the disputed cow," said PC Jones.

Further samples were taken by a vet which were compared with a cow on the victim's farm. They were proven to be siblings, and based on the DNA results, charges were brought against Owens.

Despite his initial denials, when faced with the DNA evidence, David Aeron Owens, of St Clears, pleaded guilty to theft at Swansea Crown Court this week, where he was sentenced to a £4000 fine and £500 costs.

PC Jones added: "This has been a long and protracted inquiry, and it has taken a lot of work and patience to get to this point. Without the use of the heifer's DNA we would not have been able to prove that it had been stolen by Mr Owens, and that he had tried to alter identification tags to evade prosecution."

In 2017, Dyfed-Powys Police also became the first force in Wales to use DNA evidence to secure a conviction against a man for handling stolen sheep.