27 January 2006

'Organised gang' stealing donkeys

Nellie was one of the donkeys found in County Limerick

Donkey thieves have struck again after four mares were stolen from a field in County Down.

The owner said police had told him that an organised gang was behind the thefts.

The animals were taken from a field in Banbridge owned by Patrick McDermott's family.

He said the donkeys were bought after his mother was involved in a serious car crash and had helped speed her recovery.

The theft was discovered on Thursday morning after Mr McDermott had left his children to school.

"I drove down the lane and noticed the gate open," he said.

"The bales of hay were pulled back and I immediately thought that something was up.

"I walked around the fields for a little while and then called the police."

He said the police were very helpful and had provided him with advice on trying to recover the animals.

"They believe it is an organised thing and the donkeys always seem to go missing towards the end of the month.

"With the police advice, we have issued a press release and we are just appealing to the general public and people who are involved in horse fairs to be on the look-out."

A PSNI spokesman said: "Two of the animals were in foal and one was wearing a red and blue collar.

"The youngest would be darker in colour compared to the others. The approximate value for these animals are £1,200 (in foal) and £800 each.

"Police are concerned for the welfare of the donkeys."

Last November, four donkeys in foal were stolen from Tandragee in County Armagh.

Earlier this month, they were discovered in County Limerick and returned to their owners.

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