A farmer has been reunited with his flock of lambs which turned up 40 miles away, 24 hours after they were stolen from his farm in Hampshire.
Thieves rounded up the stock from three separate sheep pens at a farm in Upton Grey, near Basingstoke, overnight on Friday (5 February).
Ian Higgens said around 60 lambs, aged two weeks to five weeks, were cornered in his barn, removed and taken away in a lorry.
Shocked farm staff arrived at the farm on Saturday morning and alerted police immediately after realising the lambs were missing.
Late on Saturday evening, Metropolitan Police officers were called to a street in Kingston-upon-Thames, Surrey, after a stunned resident spotted the lambs roaming around a garden.
Officers who were called to the address rounded up the lambs in a nearby allotment and liaised with DEFRA officials for their safe removal.
Police contacted officers in Hampshire and let Mr Higgens know most of his lambs had been found safe and well. Officers arranged for him to come and collect them.
But Mr Higgens spoke of his anger after learning from police that three of the lambs had perished in the cold over the weekend.
“Some lambs were very young and being kept outside for the first time and away from their mothers must have been very upsetting,” he said.
“We believe around 60 lambs were taken, but think we have got most of them back.
“The biggest problem is that we have been left with desperately orphaned lambs whose mothers will not accept them.
“We will have to identify ewes who are not eating and try to feed them ourselves.”
Mr Higgens said the theft was desperately frustrating for workers who had been lambing the flock over Christmas and seen most of their work ruined.
Security was now being beefed up at the farm to try and prevent further thefts, added Mr Higgens.
The lambs were destined to be slaughtered and sold at Newlyns farm shop in North Warnborough.
A Metropolitan Police spokesman said police were hunting those responsible for the thefts.
He confirmed: “We were called at 11.11pm on Saturday by a member of the public to reports of lambs roaming in the garden of a residential property in Wolsey Drive, Kingston, Surrey.
“Officers attended and managed to contain the animals in a nearby allotment.
“We liaised with Defra and Hampshire Constabulary and arrangements were made for their safe return to their owner.”
Mr Higgens said the thefts were not the first time his farm has been targeted, as rustlers had stolen pigs and turkeys in two separate attacks in recent years.
*Meanwhile, Northumbria Police were today appealing for information after three thefts of sheep, totalling around 150, in the West Tynedale area.
West Tynedale Inspector Dave Thornhill said: “We’re working closely with the farming community and visiting cattle markets and farmers across the county and further to try and trace these stolen animals.”