OFFICERS are on the trail of a gang of sheep rustlers who struck at a field near the aptly named village of Wool.

Around 160 sheep were stolen in the raid, which took place between 8am on Saturday November 2 and 2.30pm on Monday afternoon.

Police believe the thieves must have been used to handling livestock and that a large vehicle would have been used.

The animals were also marked and electronically tagged.

Constable Adam Taylor, of Wareham Police, said: “If anyone has been offered sheep in unusual circumstances or for very low prices please contact the police.”

The National Farmers' Union revealed £500,000 of livestock was rustled in the UK last year.

Much of this stolen livestock is believed to have gone straight back into the food chain.

On this latest Dorset theft, which took place on land next to the busy A352 between Wool and East Stoke, PC Taylor confirmed: “The thieves would have needed a good understanding of livestock and used a large vehicle, possibly a six or eight wheeler type lorry, to move the sheep.

“I am appealing to witnesses and anyone who may have seen any unusual activity in the area around the time.

“All the sheep had colour markings and were electronically tagged.”

No arrests have been made.

Witnesses and anyone with information should contact Dorset Police in confidence on 101 quoting incident number 04:303.

Alternatively, call the free and anonymous Crimestoppers line on 0800 555 111.