A WIGAN sheep rustler has been convicted of stealing livestock worth more than £35,000.
Thomas Redfern, from Standish, and his accomplice Andrew Piner, were nailed by DNA evidence following the theft of ewes from farms in Lancashire and North Yorkshire.
The pair were arrested when the sheep were found in a police raid at Lathams Farm, near Slaidburn, Lancs.
Redfern, 25, denied being involved in the burglary of 88 ewes after the animals were taken in raids at Newton Hall Farm, Skipton, and Curwen Hill Farm, Wray, near Lancaster.
Piner, 45, the manager at Lathams Farm, admitted theft at an earlier hearing at Lancaster Castle but after standing trial at Preston Crown Court, the jury also found Redfern unanimously guilty of two counts of theft relating to the sheep.
Preston Crown Court heard farmer Daniel Towers had invested his life savings in the flock at Curwen Hall Farm, Wray.
In September 2013, Redfern was working as a stockman at Newton Hall Farm when 30 crossbred mule ewes were stolen, with a value of £5,000. Five months later in February 2014, 58 pedigree Beltex and recipient mule ewes carrying Beltrex embryos were stolen following a burglary at Curwen Hill Farm near Wray, Lancaster. The value of that theft was in excess of £30,000.
Officers from Lancashire Police’s rural crime unit launched an investigation which led to Lathams Farm being searched under a warrant.
Stolen sheep from both burglaries were found at the farm and at another address nearby, rented by Piner. DNA tests identified them as the stolen animals.
Redfern, of Chisholme Close, Standish, and Piner, of Deer House Cottages, Gisburne, will be sentenced together at Burnley Crown Court on November 10.