Farmer's relief after sheep stolen on Christmas Day are returned

A Hilltown farmer who had 24 sheep stolen on Christmas morning has spoken of his relief after 20 of the ewes were mysteriously returned two days later.

Wednesday, 28th December 2016, 12:55 pm
Updated Wednesday, 11th January 2017, 3:49 am
Paul Magowan had sheep similar to these ones stolen on Christmas Day

Paul Magowan had mounted a vigorous Facebook campaign in an effort to make the 23 Lleyn in lamb ewes and Lleyn ram ‘too hot to handle’ after they were taken from his fields at Tamary Hill Road, on the outskirts of Rathfriland. They were all quite distinctive due to the three blue marks on the back of the head, one on the middle of the back and one on the middle of the rump.

And it seems his efforts paid off after 20 of the sheep were returned and found wondering on the road on Tuesday morning.

Paul says he was overwhelmed at the response to his Facebook campaign after receiving messages of support from right across the United Kingdom and Southern Ireland.

He now wants to meet the Chief Constable George Hamilton to raise his concerns that not enough is being done to tackle crime in rural areas.

Paul explained how he had checked the 40 sheep on Christmas Eve, but the thieves struck in the early hours of Christmas morning.

“When I went to check them I could see they looked hunted, very disturbed and there were only 16 left. One was in a drain and there were three others on neighbouring ground,” he said.

“I have two small children, young boys aged four and six, and I didn’t get to spend Christmas with them at all because of the meanness of someone. It did put a dampener on things.”

Paul said a Facebook friend had predicted that ‘God would restore his inheritance’ and due to his strong faith in God he was confident the sheep would be found.

He has thanked all those who sent him messages of support.

“The social media thing really helped,” he added. “There was a lot of sharing and I received messages of support from all over the United Kingdom and Ireland. I suppose because it was Christmas there was a good spirit and I can’t thank people enough.”

Paul said the theft had been reported to police who gave him a crime number and he had also been in touch with the Garda. He believes there is a gang operating in the area, as there have been a number of thefts of sheep in recent months around Rathfriland, Poyntzpass and South Armagh.

He added: “I would love to have a meeting with the Chief Constable because I believe there is not enough being done for the rural farming families in Northern Ireland. Where is this going to end?

“We are doing all we can to protect our livelihoods but there is no response. It seems to be that when a crime occurs a crime number is handed out for insurance purposes but that doesn’t solve the problem. We need men on the ground,” Paul added.

He believes his Facebook campaign made his sheep ‘too hot to handle’ and because meat plants were closed over the Christmas period, they were too hard to move on or hide.