A third man has this week pleaded guilty to illegal sheep butchery offences as part of Operation Stock.

Viorel Manu, aged 39, of Birmingham, was due to stand trial on Monday, March 23, but changed his plea to guilty of conspiracy to steal in relation to the slaughter and illegal butchery of sheep and lambs.

He joins Robert Iordan, aged 23, and Florin Nutu, aged 36, both also of Birmingham, who pleaded guilty to the same offences at Northampton Crown Court on Friday, February 14.

Operation Stock

Operation Stock is the Northamptonshire Police investigation into incidents of illegal sheep butchery and theft. The National Farmers’ Union estimates more than 700 sheep across Warwickshire, Leicestershire and Northamptonshire were killed by illegal butchery gangs.

It’s not known how many of these incidents involved the three charged.

In total, 12 reports of illegal butchery were made to Northamptonshire Police between June 22, 2019, and October 7, 2019, with the Operation Stock investigation launched in response.

Lead Investigator DC Jamie Cooper said: “These crimes caused farmers a great deal of upset and anger last year and I’d like to thank them and the wider rural community for their support and patience during our investigation.

“There was extensive media coverage when these incidents were taking place and I am very pleased we have achieved a successful outcome with all three men pleading guilty to their crimes.

Operation Stock was a huge team effort and I hope this case shows just how hard we will work to protect the livelihoods of our farming and rural communities, who were deeply affected by this crime series.

Detective Inspector Johnny Campbell, added: “I would like to take this opportunity to say a big ‘thank you’ to everyone who provided us with information throughout the Operation Stock investigation.

“Without a doubt, community intelligence was absolutely key in arresting all three of these men and being able to bring them to justice.

“Finally, I would like to thank DC Cooper, who worked tirelessly on this case to get justice for our rural communities.”

All three men will be sentenced via live-link at Northampton Crown Court on Friday (March 27).