WILTSHIRE police and the National Trust have reacted with surprise and anger at reports that illegal hare coursing has been taking place on Trust land around Stonehenge.

The practice, which was outlawed in 2004 with the passing of the Hunting Act, involves the use of dogs to chase down and catch a single hare, with spectators often betting on which dog will be first to catch the hare.

However, there have been reports of the practice continuing to take place across the country - including here in south Wiltshire.

A tourist visiting the area, who wished to remain nameless, said: "My wife and I had been touring the area in our motor home and we had stopped on the old cross track overlooking Stonehenge.

"We saw two carloads of men with three cross collie greyhounds hare coursing quite openly around half past six in the evening in the field to the west of the track.

"We saw a hare get killed with great glee and much shouting by the men. We tried to phone the police but could not get a signal or trace a local number and we were too scared to move after we were spotted by the group of men."

Simon Clarke, the National Trust's head warden for Wiltshire, said that the sheer size of the National Trust property made it very difficult to police but they would be doing their utmost to ensure the practice did not take place on Trust land in the future.

He said: "Even before the practice was made illegal in 2004, the National Trust never licensed hare coursing on its land and this is the first such incident we are aware of at Stonehenge.

"It is an unfortunate reality that our wardens cannot be everywhere at all times. We would urge anyone witnessing illegal activity in the countryside to contact Wiltshire police as soon as is practicable on 0845 408 7000."

A police spokesman added: "We take very seriously any allegations of illegal activity and we are investigating this complaint with a view to prosecute."