The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) is appealing for information after a “substantial number of sheep” were stolen from land in the Rhee Lane area of Coleraine.

The theft, which caused a “huge financial loss” to the owner, occurred Monday (November 27).

PSNI chief inspector, Sinead McIldowney, said: “We received a report that a substantial number of sheep, last seen on Monday, November 27, were missing from farmland in the Rhee Lane area.

“When officers reviewed the entrance to the farmland, it appears the rope securing the gate that leads onto Rhee Lane has been cut, and the gate was left wide open, enabling the release of flock.  

“This is a huge financial loss to the owner responsible for the sheep and we would appeal to anyone with information, or who may have noticed any suspicious activity in the area, to contact police on the non-emergency number 101, quoting reference 934 of 28/11/23.”

The PSNI asked anyone who has spotted any unknown vehicles like trailers to get in touch.

“Alternatively, information can be provided to the independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111, which is 100% anonymous and gives people the power to speak up and stop rural crime,” McIldowney said.

Rural theft

Last week, a total of €2,700,000 was announced to be made available to the Seniors Alert Scheme (SAS) in 2024, to continue funding for alarms and make advances, which allow those over the age of 65 to live alone securely.

The funding was announced as part of the Dormant Accounts Fund, which will provide €47.6 million to address disadvantage right across the country.

The current version of the alert scheme came into effect in September 2021.

Fianna Fáil TD, Jennifer Murnane O’Connor said that the scheme is “great” for those living in rural Ireland, but that it needs to be promoted more.

“I am shocked at the number of older people who do not know about the scheme,” the deputy said.

The scheme is also part of the Be Winter Ready campaign, ensuring communities take all the steps necessary to be prepared for severe weather conditions.

As we enter winter months, weather conditions can become more severe, but also dark evenings can lead to rises in theft.

A survey from Technological University Dublin (TU Dublin), with the support of the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) highlights that more than half of farmers have been the victims of theft.

A total of 60% of participants believe that An Garda Síochána should have a dedicated unit to deal with farm thefts and rural crime.