Police unravel mystery of the crop circle

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They have been a source of mystery and amusement to students of the bizarre for years, but yesterday crop circles attracted the attention of a new audience - the long arm of the law.

They have been a source of mystery and amusement to students of the bizarre for years, but yesterday crop circles attracted the attention of a new audience - the long arm of the law.

A 29-year-old Wiltshire man last night became what is believed to be the first person in Britain to be accused of the novel crime of raiding a field and creating patterns out of flattened wheat.

Matthew Williams, of Bishops Cannings, near Devizes, was arrested after photographs allegedly showing him working with another man were sent anonymously to detectives.

He will appear before Devizes magistrates on Monday charged with causing criminal damage to an unspecified area of pasture near Marlborough in July this year.

The case threatens to blow the lid on what has long been believed to be the prime cause of crop circles - well-equipped and highly-adept hoaxers.

For years, fans of the paranormal had sought to explain the weird and wonderful patterns of interlinked circles, squares and diamonds as the work of aliens or freak weather conditions.

But some crop circle creators have recently come forward to confess to their activities, carried out under cover of darkness using an array of ladders, tethered barrels and ropes to work "magic".

Police arrested Williams earlier this week after searching his home and recovering pieces of equipment allegedly used to sculpt circles. A second man was also detained but later released without charge.

News of the prosecution was welcomed by farmers in the rolling countryside of Wiltshire - prime territory for crop circles with dozens appearing every summer.

Tim Carson, chairman of the National Farmers Union in the county, said: "It's no different if someone comes into your garden and causes damage. You spend a lot of time and effort planting crops and then someone comes along and destroys them, it's very annoying."

Andrew Naughton, who farms near Devizes, added: "Imagine you had a green car and someone came along and sprayed pretty patterns on the roof with white paint. That's the only way I can describe it."

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