Great Britain

Welsh police DNA test cow to prove farmer stole it from neighbour's field

Welsh police have used DNA profiling to convict a farmer of stealing a cow from a neighbour’s herd.

Dyfed-Powys Police said it was the first force in the UK to use the tactic — typically deployed in more serious crimes such as murder — to solve a case involving the theft of heifer.

The £3,000 cow at the centre of the dispute had escaped from a farm in St Clears, Carmarthenshire into a neighbouring field owned by David Owens, 51.

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Owens re-tagged the heifer and claimed it as his own, telling its true owner in August 2017 he had not seen it.

But four months later the animal’s owner reported one of his 300 cows stolen after he identified it among Owens’s herd.

Owens provided police with a cow passport, listing ear tag numbers for the heifer and the animal Mr Owens claimed was its mother.

But police issued a warrant for the stolen heifer and found the blood samples taken from it matched with other cows from its original farm.

Owens was charged with theft and pleaded guilty at Swansea Crown Court on Monday.

PC Gareth Jones, the officer who took charge of the case, said his force was “proud” of its achievement and vowed to continue using “innovative methods” to get justice.

He said: “This has been a long and protracted enquiry, and it has taken a lot of work and patience to get to this point.

“Without the use of the heifer’s DNA, we would not have been able to prove that it had been stolen by Mr Owens, and that he had tried to alter identification tags to evade prosecution.

“We are proud to be the first force in the UK to use a cow’s DNA in a criminal case, and will continue to use innovative methods to get justice for victims.”

During the investigation, Owens started proceedings against the police force over the way blood samples were taken from the cow without his permission. But a judicial review found the police had acted lawfully.

Owens, of Salem Road, St Clears, was fined £4,000 fine and told to pay £400 costs.

PC Jones said: “I echo comments made by the judge, who said Mr Owens, as a farmer, would be well aware of the need for a level of trust in the rural community. In committing these offences, he has played a part in breaking down that trust, which will be difficult to build back up.”

In 2017, Dyfed-Powys Police became the first police force to use DNA profiling to solve a case involving stolen sheep.

Andrew Thomas, then 39, pleaded guilty to handling stolen livestock after tests proved lambs born to stolen ewes had been fathered by rams on the victim’s land in Carmarthenshire.