A Carmarthenshire sheep rustler awaits sentencing after a ground-breaking investigation used DNA evidence to prove a genetic link between the progeny of stolen sheep and secure a conviction.
Andrew Paul Thomas, aged 39, Bryncethin Road, Garnant, previously pleaded not guilty before forensic techniques proved he stole 50 pregnant sheep from near Ammanford in January 2015.
Blood tests taken from lambs born from the sheep had corresponding genetic links to rams from the victim’s farm.
He is due for sentencing on April 11 after admitting the charge of handling stolen property.
A victim-instigated inquiry within the farming community traced 21 of the sheep to Llanybydder Livestock Market within two weeks, where they were bought by unsuspecting farmers.
Ammanford officer PC Meirion Jenkins of Dyfed-Powys Police, who received an award for his work on the case, called on the help of rural crime inspector Matthew Howells, who co-ordinated a DNA analysis.
A patient Dyfed-Powys police force waited for the sheep to lamb before requesting the Animal Plant Health Agency (APHA) to blood sample lambs, which then linked them to blood samples from the farmer’s ram.
Temporary inspector Matthew Howells thanked the Carmarthenshire farming community for its patience, applauding the victim for the determination shown.
“It has not been an easy two for years for him and his family,” said Mr Howells. “They are a hard-working family unit and the loss of income resulting from the theft has no doubt been hard to bear.
“The farmers who unsuspectingly bought the sheep at market also deserve my thanks and appreciation for their assistance in this investigation along with colleagues from APHA for providing the forensic opportunities.”
PC Meirion Jenkins collected the Dyfed-Powys Police Contribution to Investigation award last week.
Christianne Glossop, Chief Veterinary Officer for Wales, said: “Theft of stock can have a serious financial impact on farmers and I am pleased that DNA evidence from the APHA was able to play such a key part in this case.”