POLICE investigating reports of homes being marked with sawdust by alleged dognapping gangs say they believe runners could be responsible instead.

A Facebook post shared by numerous people on social media described how an un-named person living in Purewell was cold-called by a charity fundraiser from Anthony Nolan.

The next day they found a small pile of sawdust outside their home and claimed their neighbours had also been targeted.

The post continued by saying: "Having spoken to our neighbours, it appears that the sawdust piles were arranged as either a circle or an arrow.

"We think that it could be a dog napping operation as all the houses with circles outside have dogs. We think that the arrow means that the occupier answered but doesn't appear to have dogs."

A spokesperson for Dorset Police said: "Officers in Christchurch received reports on Tuesday 19 January 2016 of suspicious activity involving circle and arrow markings on the ground and piles of sawdust outside properties.

"Local officers have been made aware. At this time, there is nothing to suggest any crimes have taken place."

But a PCSO yesterday revealed that he had seen two men placing sawdust or powder on the ground in streets in Ferndown - and that they were from a local running club. 

In a post on the Dorset Alerts community messaging system, PCSO Dan Byrne wrote: "While on patrol recently I spoke to members of a Ferndown-based running club as I noticed two of them in running gear depositing small piles of flour and sawdust at intermittent points.

"They explained that they were marking out the route for a running event taking place in the evening and they use these materials due to the fact that they stand out in the dark and when damp do not blow away easily.

"There is a possibility that other running clubs operate in a similar manner, whether its leaving piles, drawing circles or arrows etcetera."

PCSO Dan Byrne went on to say that there is no 'definitive information stating that all these types of marking belong to either running clubs or organised crime gangs' but he wanted to raise awareness of the alternative use for the material.

He added that Dorset Police encourage people to remain vigilant and to always report any suspicious activity to Dorset Police on 101.

The Daily Echo also contacted the charity, Anthony Nolan, which aims to help people with blood cancer and blood disorders, which confirms that it uses door-to-door fundraisers to boost donations for the cause.

Rufus Cruft, head of individual giving at Anthony Nolan, said: "We’re aware of a Christchurch resident’s concerns around a visit from fundraisers working for an agency representing Anthony Nolan.

"We can confirm that our fundraisers were working in the area at the time and that the visit was genuine.

"We have investigated the individual’s concerns with the fundraising agency and can assure local residents that these fundraisers have not been leaving markings of any kind in the area."

A spokesperson for the RSPCA said that they have been aware of social media posts in the past that mention properties being marked in connection with alleged dog thefts, including the use of red stickers. She added that reports should be made to, and would be investigated by, the police.