A MAN arrested over the deaths of six sheep in the New Forest has been released pending further inquiries.

A 41-year-old man from Winchester was detained on suspicion of six counts of criminal damage following a spate of incidents in the Bramshaw and Cadnam area.

Officers said the arrest related to the deaths of sheep in Penn Common Road, Bramshaw, and Wittensford Lane and Kewlake Lane in Cadnam.

Police have now confirmed that the man had been released but said he remained under investigation.

The deaths began in November last year when a ewe was found stabbed at Penn Common and marked with pentagrams - a five-pointed star often associated with occultism.

Police mounted extra patrols amid fears that members of a Satanic-style cult were active in the area.

On January 2 a sheep was found stabbed to death near a pond at Kewlake Lane. A broken pitchfork and a cross made of straw were found beside the body.

Another sheep was killed in the Wittensford Lane area between 5pm on January 16 and 8am the next day.

On the same night a sheep died in Penn Common Road after suffering what police described as "puncture wounds" to its neck.

Officers were called again last week after the body of a sheep was found in the Wittensford Lane area.