POLICE are investigating the deaths of three sheep near Matfen in a suspected poaching incident.

Two sheep were reported to have died at the scene, and one had injuries so severe it had to be put down by a vet.

Officers are now appealing to anyone who may have information about the incident, and have shared advice on how the public can help stop poachers in their tracks, and help bring offenders before a court.

Wildlife officer Lee Davison, of Northumbria Police said: “It is really important to call the police if you see anything suspicious. This information not only assists the attending officer so they know what they are looking for but it also helps us gather evidence and progress investigations.

“The most obvious sign of poaching is a group of vehicles parked in a rural area – by a gateway to farmland, on a grass verge, farm track or bridle path for example.

“Other useful information would be descriptions of suspects, including how many and any accents. This will help us to determine the areas the suspects maybe travelling from.”

PC Davison also recommended writing down anything which was said, as well as what the suspected poachers were wearing and if they had any dogs with them.

“What we also find really useful is vehicle information, so things like direction of travel, registrations as well as the make and model of the vehicle and any noticeable damage to it,” he said.

“If you find anything that may be evidence, such as tyre marks, foot prints or blood, then take a photo and try to preserve it by covering it with a plastic bag or sheet until officers arrive.

“Remember that all information is potentially important as even the smallest detail could match with someone else’s report and help build a case against a suspected offender.

“All of this helps us to respond effectively and efficiently to incidents and gives officers the best chance of identifying suspects and making arrests.”

To report any suspicious behaviour or suspected poaching contact police on 101.

Downloading the What3Words app, which allows police to view the phone users’ specific locations through an algorithm which assigns three-metre square in the world to a unique three-word address that will never change, has also proved useful in helping officers to narrow down locations and help officers to locate the incident quicker.

Police have asked that anyone who knows anything about the incident contact officers and quote reference number 657 of the 09/10/19.