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Farmer ‘very annoyed’ after £15,000 worth of cattle stolen

Thursday, 13 April 2017

A TYRONE farmer has described his 'annoyance' after thieves stole approximately £15,000 worth of cattle from a shed at an outfarm on the Tiroony Road, near Carrickmore.

The incident occurred sometime between 8.30pm on Thursday last and 9am on Friday when a total of 17 animals were stolen from an outfarm of Mr David Armstrong. The stolen livestock comprised nine black Aberdeen Angus bulls and eight black Aberdeen Angus heifers.

In the wake of the incident and others across the province, the Department of Justice announced yesterday (Tuesday) that the Rural Crime Partnership (RCP) is spearheading a campaign at reducing crime in rural communities.

The Rural Crime Partnership which includes representatives from the Department of Justice (DoJ), Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI), Ulster Farmers' Union (UFU), Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA), NFU Mutual (NFU) and Young Farmers' Clubs (YFC), is working with Crimestoppers to encourage reporting and ask the public to give information anonymously about rural crime across Northern Ireland.

Meanwhile, the local cattle thieves victim, Mr Armstrong, made the shock discovery on Friday morning when he went to feed his herd and believes that the perpetrators must have local knowledge of the area.

"We're very annoyed about it," said Mr Armstrong. "It's an outfarm on the Tiroony Road about four miles away from our home farm and when we went up to feed the animals on Friday morning, two pens were empty.

 

The animals had been taken through the door of the big shed they were in.

"I'm very sure that it was someone with local knowledge - someone who would have been aware of the animals up there that would have set it up and that's the annoying part of it.

"We think there was a large lorry and a small lorry involved and I would appeal to anyone in the local area to report any suspicious behaviour they may have seen."

According to the farmer, there was another attempted theft in the same area, but luckily the thieves were disturbed and they did not manage to steal anything.

"There has been a near-theft in the same vicinity," said David. "But they must have been disturbed and they didn't get away with anything".

Despite the difficulties in policing outfarms, David urged other farmers to be "vigilant".

He concluded: "Outfarms are nearly impossible to watch, but all you can do is be vigilant."

Meanwhile, describing the theft as a 'big loss', UUP councillor and vice-chairman of Fermanagh and Omagh District Council, Bert Wilson, a farmer himself, appealed to members of the public to report any suspicious behaviour to the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI).

"It seems to be at the minute that there is a serious amount of thefts going on and there doesn't seem to be any deterrent," said Mr Wilson. "Farmers are relying on their own alertness and if anyone in the rural area sees anything suspicious they should be reporting it. There are obviously not enough PSNI officers on the ground - they are not there to start with. The farming industry is not good at the present time - so such a theft is a big loss.

"They (the perpetrators) must have some way of disposing of them (livestock) without tags because with the tags on they are identifiable so if they take them to an abattoir or a mart that would show up. So they have a way of disposing of them without the tags or else there is an illegal butchery which is another way of disposing of them. I would reckon they went down south".

Echoing Mr Armstrong, the UUP councillor also feels that the perpetrators likely had have local knowledge of the area.

"It's something they (the perpetrators) have been targeting. The cattle were away down a fairly long lane in a shed and it's away from the road. I would appeal to the public to come forward (with information) and if anyone sees stray animals that have appeared to alert the authorities."

Claiming that it can be difficult for farmers, especially those with outfarms, to protect against thefts, Mr Wilson continued: "It's very difficult unless you put a barrier with a lock on the lane. I do see some farmers who have been putting swing barriers on lanes and locking them in places where they have stock away from home.

"People would leave machinery on the lane as well to make access more difficult but you shouldn't have to do that."

Commenting on the campaign to tackle rural crime which was launched yesterday, UFU president Barclay Bell said: "Rural crime has a significant impact on farm businesses and the wider local community. Victims are left feeling vulnerable and demoralised and it is an issue that must be tackled. We understand the impact crime against the farming community has on farmers, their families and their businesses. That's why we welcome the launch of this campaign.

"Don't wait for crime to happen. Have a look around your premises and try to do so with a thief's eyes, looking for vulnerable spots and areas of permanent darkness. This could help make your property less appealing to a thief."

In relation to the Tirooney Road incident, Sergeant Ryan McConville from the PSNI said they were keen to hear from anyone who saw suspicious activity in the area and, in particular, the driver of a tractor and trailer who was seen in the vicinity between 2am and 3am on Friday morning.

He said: "A number of valuable cattle - nine black Aberdeen Angus bulls and eight black heifers - were stolen in this incident. We would like to hear from anyone who saw suspicious activity in the area around this time.

“We would be particularly keen for the driver of a tractor and trailer who was seen in the area between 2am to 3am on Friday morning to get in touch with us.

“Anyone with information should contact police on the non-emergency number 101, quoting reference 249 of 7/4/17. Alternatively, if someone would prefer to provide information without giving their details, they can contact the independent charity Crimestoppers and speak to them anonymously on: 0800 555 111."

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