FEARS a Satanic-style cult is active in the New Forest have been sparked by a spate of animal attacks which have shocked the local community.
Sheep and cattle have been found stabbed and sprayed with occult markings in the space of five days within a few miles of each other in the Bramshaw area.
Police have launched an investigation into the “unusual” incidents.
A ewe was found knifed to death and marked with pentagrams, and two calves and a heifer were also injured.
Further concern spread among residents after Satanic symbols were sprayed on the walls of a local church.
The dead ewe was discovered at the roadside in Penn Common Road with a puncture wound to its side by Judy Rudd while she was out walking her two dogs around 11am last Tuesday.
“It had purple and green symbols sprayed on it,” said Mrs Rudd, who has lived in the New Forest for 40 years.
“It was a pentagram and a cross. It had been stabbed to death. The wounds were in the side of the body by the rib cage.
“It was very unpleasant. Some people think it’s sinister.”
Her husband Julian added: “I think it’s reasonable to say it’s not just lads messing about. The owner’s very cut up about it and very worried.
“There’s a certain amount of concern, it’s unnerving – we’ve lived here 40 years and there’s been nothing like this before. I don’t agree that it’s done to shock – you don’t go around knifing animals simply to shock people.
“It’s related to something other than simply a desire to injure animals – it’s either witchcraft or whatever. It’s rather worrying.”
Officers have been looking into whether this death is linked with two other incidents, in which cows have been found injured.
Two calves were found to have small wounds to their shoulders when they returned after being let out in the Linwood area. Both animals received treatment following the incident, which took place sometime between 7pm on Tuesday 12th November and 1pm on Thursday 14th.
A heifer was attacked in Bramshaw sometime between 2.30pm last Tuesday and 9.10am the following day, having been let out by a farmer. It returned with a wound on its neck, and had to be taken to the vet for treatment.
“I went out in the morning to let them in and I’ve seen this abrasion on the side of its neck,” the farmer recalled.
“Obviously, I was quite concerned so I studied it and called the vet to find out what happened.
“It looked like a stab wound, and after what’s been going on in the village over the last few days I was very concerned about the situation. I’m very concerned for the welfare of the animals and the people out there in the Forest.”
The farmer called for people to remain vigilant for any suspicious activity in the area.
The 12th century St Peter’s Church on Judds Hill, Bramshaw, was recently targeted by offenders who sprayed its walls with phallic and Satanic symbols. As well as an inverted cross, they had sprayed ‘666’, the biblical number of the devil.
Suggesting the animal incidents could be related to witchcraft or black magic, the Rev David Bacon said: “The only security we have is people’s eyes and ears.”
He continued: “People are concerned. I’ve been here 15 years and seen a lot of stuff, but nothing like this.
“It could just be kids, but I don’t think it is, given the context. There’s been witchcraft round here for hundreds of years – the New Forest is well-known for witchcraft and black magic happening, and this has obviously gone up a level.
Tony Hockley, chairman of the New Forrest Commoners’ Defence Association, warned the effect of the animal attacks would be felt in the community for many years.
“We look out for each other,” he said. “There are 700 commoners always looking out for each other and each other’s animals.
“Things like this will deter people from carrying on the tradition of grazing animals on the Forest, and that hurts everyone.”
Sgt Andy Williams, of Hampshire police’s Country Watch team, said: “These incidents are unusual in the New Forest. We are looking at the circumstances of each one to see if they are linked, and to see how these animals came to be injured.
“We would also urge anyone who uses the Forest, including commoners, to be vigilant. Please contact us if you see anything suspicious.”
Those with information should contact the force on 101, quoting crime reference number 44190416137, or call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.