Operation Stock is the Northamptonshire Police investigation into reports of illegal sheep butchery and theft.


On Tuesday, October 8, three men were charged with conspiracy to steal over offences linked to Operation Stock. They will next appear at Northampton Crown Court on December 16.

Read more here.


The Operation Stock investigation involves officers from across Northamptonshire Police, including our Rural Crime Team, Neighbourhood Policing Teams, CID and intelligence.

Our officers are also working closely with other forces, including neighbouring forces such as Warwickshire Police and Leicestershire Police, which have also seen similar illegal sheep butchery reports.

Illegal slaughter incidents

Since February 2019, Northamptonshire Police has received the following reports of lambs and sheep being killed and butchered in the county:

  • 28/02/19 – four lambs, one ram butchered in Whilton
  • 06/03/19 – five ewes butchered in Harpole
  • 23/06/19 – five lambs believed killed and stolen in Holcot
  • 06/07/19 – two rams butchered in Rushton
  • 08/07/19 – 15 lambs butchered in Crick/West Haddon
  • 09/07/19 – 21 lambs butchered in Whilton
  • 13/07/19 – 13 lambs butchered in Kelmarsh
  • 17/07/19 – nine lambs butchered in Clipston
  • 04/08/19 - six lambs butchered in south Northamptonshire
  • 19/08/19 - 11 lambs butchered in Whilton
  • 30/08/19 - at least 26 lambs and ewes butchered between Duston and Harpole
  • 09/09/19 - 25 sheep butchered in Thornby 
  • 25/09/19 - 3 lambs butchered in Denton
  • 06/10/19 - 9 sheep butchered near Welton

Sheep theft incidents

While Operation Stock is primarily concerned with illegal butchery, officers are also investigating a number of reports of sheep and lamb thefts:

  • 14/04/19 - 1 ewe stolen, Lilbourne
  • 14/04/19 - 4 ewes stolen, Helmdon
  • 30/04/19 - 37 ewes stolen, Preston Capes
  • 19/07/19 - 77 lambs stolen, Holcote
  • 22/07/19 - 2 lambs stolen, Caldecote
  • 22/07/19 - 58 lambs stolen, Yelvertoft
  • 07/08/19 - 15 lambs stolen, Hollowell
  • 08/08/19 - 64 ewes stolen, West Haddon

On July 13 the force also received a report of a live lamb found tied up with electric fencing in the Moulton area.

Community engagement and prevention

The force understands the level of community concern these incidents are having, and is continuing to engage with farmers, landowners, rural communities, businesses and partner agencies such as the NFU to share information and advice.

Thanks to funding from the Northamptonshire Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner, Operation Stock warning signs have been produced and given out to farmers, landowners and rural residents to help warn and inform the public about incidents, and encourage people to report any suspicious behaviour to police by calling 101, or 999 in an emergency.

PCSO Les Conopo with Operation Stock illegal sheep slaughter warning sign.jpg

Patrols and intelligence gathering

Since the launch of Operation Stock, police officers and PCSOs have been conducting rural patrols by vehicle, bicycle and even from the air.

Using a drone owned in partnership with Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue Service, officers have been able to use thermal imaging to monitor large rural areas overnight, looking out for suspicious activity and relaying any information to officers on the ground.

Heat sources such as people, animals or roads show up in yellow on the drone footage.


How can you help?

Information and intelligence from our communities is key to Operation Stock. The force is urging anyone who sees any suspicious or unusual activity in rural areas which could be relevant to the investigation to report it via 101, or online, quoting Operation Stock. Information can also be shared anonymously via Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.

In an emergency, such as when a crime is in progress, always call 999.