POLICE are still investigating a spate of incidents in which a sheep was stabbed to death and at least two other animals suffered fatal knife wounds.

Officers are mounting extra patrols amid fears that modern-day Satanists are at work in the New Forest, which has a long history of witchcraft.

In the worst incident a eye sheep was knifed to death and marked with pentagrams - a five-pointed star often associated with occultism.

Police are investigating reports that another sheep in the Bramshaw area also suffered a fatal stab wound.

In other incidents a cow let out in Bramshaw returned with a wound on its neck and two calves grazing at Linwood, near Ringwood, suffered minor injuries to their shoulders.

New Forest Post:

Mo Metcalf-Fisher of the Countryside Alliance said: “Grazing animals are an iconic feature of the New Forest we know and love.

"The evil perpetrators of these horrific crimes must be severely punished.

"While it would appear that incidents of this nature are rare, it serves as an important reminder to local people and visitors to the Forest to be on high alert and to report anything suspicious to the police.

"Considering these deeply disturbing cases, we would expect visible police patrols in the area to increase.”

The National Farmers' Union said it was "shocked" to learn of the incidents.

And several people have taken to social media to condemn what they describe as "sickening" attacks on some of the Forest's free-roaming animals.

One woman said: "I've actually brought my rabbit and three guinea pigs into my dining room to live as I fear what may happen if someone got into the garden."

Another social media user said: "Totally sick, mindless. Made me cry."

New Forest Post:

As reported in the Daily Echo, phallic symbols and the devil's number - 666 - were sprayed on doors and signs at the 12th century St Peter's Church in Bramshaw.

Villagers say 666 has also been sprayed on roads in the area, including Godshill and Nomansland.

All the ponies, cattle and donkeys which roam the Forest are owned by people known as commoners - villagers with the right to let their livestock graze the Forest.

Tony Hockley, chairman of the New Forest Commoners' Defence Association, warned the attacks would have a major impact on the community for years to come.

He said: "Things like this will deter people from carrying on the tradition of grazing animals on the forest and that hurts everyone."