A YOUNG sheep has been killed and butchered in a Somerset field, to the absolute horror of the farmer who discovered the remains.

Farmer Bill Rawlings found the remains of the ewe when checking his small flock in Sutton Bingham.

He had fed the 13 ewes, all in lamb, on the afternoon of January 26 and found them quiet and happy.

Four of the little ewes were in lamb for the first time.

The next day he returned to the field, just half a mile from the farmhouse, to find one of the small ewes missing.

Checking the neighbouring field, he found a disturbing scene: the ewe's skin, wool and insides were splayed around a bush.

The ewe had been butchered in the field during the night, and the killer had taken the meat and left the unwanted remnants behind.

Bill's wife Mary said: "What a thing to do. They're virtually pet sheep.

"I didn't sleep for nights after. They must have slit her throat, not shot her.

"It's someone who knows what they're doing because of the way the skin is.

"Obviously whoever did it has the capability to deal with a sheep like this."

There have been increasing reports of the killing and butchering of sheep in fields across the UK, but this is the first time the couple have heard of such a crime.

Quite apart from the horror of a ewe pregnant for the first time being killed in this way, Bill cannot understand what the motive could be.

He said: "A sheep is only worth around £800 - it's not worth it.

"No pub would take the meat, as someone could talk.

"No butcher would want to touch it either as they don't know where it came from or when it was last wormed."

Bill and Mary have reported the killing to the police and have also put up posters near to their fields asking anyone with information to share it with them.

They are keen to warn other farmers of this type of disturbing crime.

Mary said: "Just be on your guard. Be very wary of anything suspicious and any vehicles on the farm.

"We're on our guard, and the killers could come back. We just want to stop them doing it again."

If you have any information about this incident, call Avon and Somerset Police on 101 and quote crime reference number 5221018910.

Alternatively, you can contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111.