Goat thieves strike as rural crime increases

Rory the goat, stolen last week from a smallholding near Mickleby
Rory the goat, stolen last week from a smallholding near Mickleby

When Vivien Fisher moved from York to her dream home near Runswick Bay, she thought she was escaping to an idyllic country lifestyle.

However, just 18 months later and Mrs Fisher has joined a sad group who have become victims of the region’s most rapidly increasing crime - that of rural burglary.

This year there has already been 111 rural burglaries in Whitby and district, up from 79 over the same period last year.

For Mrs Fisher, it was her beloved Pygmy goat Rory that was stolen, a seemingly-random theft by opportunist thieves who are taking whatever they can get their hands on.

“It’s shaken everybody in the village,” she said. “Rory may only be just a goat, but he’s important to us.

“People say don’t get attached to them but he was a pet. He was very sweet, very gentle, he was not the slightest bit aggressive and very trusting.”

To combat the thefts a group has been established. The Esk Valley Crime Group is a partnership approach to tackling rural crime, a return to Neighbourhood Watch-style community engagement.

Whitby inspector Andy Colbourne said: “Although we will respond whenever we receive a call, we have to accept we can’t be there within two minutes. So we are looking at other people being our eyes and ears.”

Police believe the majority of thieves are making the short journey south from Cleveland, and so are also working closely with that area’s police force.

Mrs Fisher had raised Rory from a kid and the 18-month-old goat was the only male among a herd of females. However, he was the only one taken, leaving the victims believing he may have been selected for breeding purposes.

With each Pygmy goat kid being worth around £100, the black market in livestock trade can be a lucrative business.

But Mrs Fisher said it is not the loss of potential income that makes the loss of Rory, who himself cost £250, that makes the theft so upsetting.

She said: “Some people could laugh and say ‘Why are you making such a fuss about it?’ But they are different from sheep, they’re very interactive and he’s very much a pet. He doesn’t come in the house but if I’m working around the field he follows me.

“It’s also upsetting to think what’s happening to him? Where’s he being kept?

“There’s also the intrusion into our property - it’s incredible to think we are in a quiet area and this happens.”