A total of 25 fallow deer have been indiscriminately shot since last December by an unknown shooter trespassing on a Wiltshire estate.
Local police have said there are fears for the safety of the public walking on the 3,000- acre Hamptworth estate near Salisbury, which is home to between 200 and 300 deer.
Estate manager, Guy Anderson, told Shooting Times magazine that the sooner the criminal is caught, the better: ?We all became very concerned about the arbitrary nature of this apparently sadistic killing and injuring of deer, as the shooting continued into January and February of this year.?
He added that some of the carcasses have been found close to houses, public footpaths, bridleways and roads.
?We are exceedingly worried that an individual could be injured or killed while walking their dog.?
Some of the deer have been discovered wounded and have had to be despatched by the estate stalker. Mr Anderson said the culprit is not a poacher, as the carcasses have not been taken off the estate.
?This criminal appears to be shooting these deer simply for pleasure. Whoever is doing this, I ask them to stop and go and get medical advice because they need it.?
Estate owner Donald Anderson said the estate has been in the family for more than 170 years and he has never seen anything like this before.
?This is a very peculiar case as the carcass is just being left for foxes or dogs. The criminal is taking deer of all ages – from fawns to old bucks. We cannot explain it. There seems to be no sense or logic to this crime.?
Wiltshire police?s rural crime team and local officers are investigating the killings.
Beat officer PC Fritz Macauley said the crime was potentially punishable under numerous different laws including Section 3 of the 1991 Deer Act for taking deer at night, Section 1 of the Deer Act for shooting on the estate without the owner?s consent, Section 20 of the 1968 Firearms Act for armed trespass and various offences under the 1997 Firearms Act.
PC Macauley said: ?These incidents are particularly nasty, as the deer are just being randomly shot at and then left for dead. The offender or offenders are trespassing on private property in order to reach the animals. I would urge anyone with information to contact me or if they witness an incident in progress to ring 999 straightaway.?
British Deer Society director for England and Wales David Kenyon lives on the Hamptworth estate, and is now working in close co-operation with Wiltshire Police to patrol the grounds day and night.
He said he has been part of the night surveillance team: ?This killing is mindless – it is worse than poaching, as these deer are being left to die in the fields. Just how many have been wounded and the carcass has not been discovered??
Mr Kenyon added: ?Every effort is being made to catch this criminal – and they will make a mistake at some point. We would then expect the full weight of the law to come down on them.?
Anyone with information about the shootings can contact PC Macauley, tel 0845 408 7000