THIEVES stole three much-loved pet sheep from a flock of 40 in Shipton Gorge.

Distressed owner Jean Ayers is now offering a reward for their safe return.

A seven-year old grey-faced Dartmoor called Willow was the first sheep Mrs Ayers kept and she was taken with her ewe lamb Hazel, born last spring.

The third was Teeny-Weeny, a little brown Shetland ewe who was so tiny when born in April that she was given a knitted jacket to keep her warm. The jacket was knitted by a volunteer from the Bridport RSPCA shop where staff have photos of her and her friend Itsy-Bitsy.

Mrs Ayers the rustlers backed up a 4x4 vehicle to the padlocked field gate on Friday night and man-handled the sheep over – leaving tell-tale traces of fleece.

She thinks they tried to coral the flock in a part of the field not visible from the village and carried the ones they could catch across the pasture and over to the gate.

She said: “They probably took Willow and the others because they were so tame and easy to catch.

“They spent the summer in the garden with us and Willow is so tame she walks beside you like a dog and her lamb stuck to her like glue.

“They are rare breed sheep and they would have had a home here for life.

“I expect they are long gone now or hanging on a hook somewhere.”

Mrs Ayers has contacted abattoirs and markets to ask staff to look out for the distinctive shaggy fleeced sheep.

She said: “Willow wasn’t worth anything commercially but is of huge sentimental value to me.

“Teeny Weeney is minute, only about the size of a spaniel so you could literally pick her up and put her under your arm. I have been in touch with local abattoirs and all the markets.

“One of the markets said people just chop the tags out and put new tags in and the sheep are put through.

“I am just so angry. We look at the sheep twice a day and at first we thought they’d got out and spent two hours searching all the neighbours’ fields before we realised they’d been taken.”

Bridport Police Inspector Mike Darby said: “We have seen these type of crimes elsewhere in Dorset recently, however, in the Bridport area thankfully this has remained quite rare in the last 12 months.

“For crime prevention assistance and advice in relation to rural crime Operation Stop that Thief is being run very successfully here in conjunction with the Beaminster NFU and we can assist preventing these type of crimes.”

  • To help contact Bridport Police on 101 and ask for PC John Poe.