A Garnant farmer has been handed a suspended prison sentence for handling stolen sheep.

Andrew Paul Thomas, of Bryncethin Road, pleaded guilty after DNA tests were used to prove lambs born to stolen ewes had been fathered by rams on the victim's land.

Swansea Crown Court heard that 18 sheep were sold at Llanybydder market two weeks after about 50 sheep were stolen from Alan Price's land from the Derwydd area of Ammanford.

Dyfed-Powys Police used DNA evidence to secure the conviction, which was the first time ever the procedure had been used in Wales in relation to stolen sheep.

The theft was reported in January 2015, and the victim started his own enquiries to trace them in the farming community.

Ammanford officer PC Meirion Jenkins wanted to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the animals belonged to the victim.

He sought advice from the force’s rural crime specialist Acting Inspector Matthew Howells, who assisted with the coordination of the use of DNA evidence by the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA).

Police officers investigating the case waited two months for the pregnant ewes to give birth, and were then able to take blood samples from the lambs.

Samples were also taken from rams owned by the victim.

Scientists at APHA were able to prove that the majority of the newborn lambs were related to the victim’s rams by examining DNA from all the blood samples.

Temporary Inspector Matthew Howells said: “Traditionally, sheep rustling cases are very difficult to detect and prosecute, with this case being no exception. Although we were unable to prove who stole the sheep, we were able to use forensic techniques usually reserved for humans to help prove that the sheep were in fact the stolen ones.

PC Meirion Jenkins, who led the investigation, was recently presented with the Contribution to Investigation Award at the Dyfed-Powys Police Awards.

Thomas, 39, was ordered to pay £1,000 in compensation and sentenced to an eight month jail term, suspended for two years after appearing in court on April 11.