Sheeps' heads dumped in feud: Welsh hill farmers appear to be locked in an increasingly macabre dispute, writes Peter Dunn

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POLICE in the Welsh valleys are investigating a feud between sheep farmers on the mountains above Pontypridd, in Taff Vale, Mid Glamorgan.

In the latest of a series of incidents, 41 sheeps' heads were found dumped on land owned by Gerald Mason, 44, at his farm at Glyntaff, outside Rhydyfelin.

It was the second incident of its kind on Mr Mason's property in three months. On 13 June, the day his nephew and partner Kevin Stephens got married, 13 ewes' heads were found.

Mr Mason said he was being targeted by other farmers because of his expansionist policies. The 300-acre farm he inherited from his father now spreads across 900 acres, with one farm at Raglan 30 miles away. He said rivals were jealous of his 4,000 sheep and beef cattle herd.

Mr Mason, who has given police five names of possible suspects, said that on Monday he had to take a shotgun away from his nephew. 'Kevin was going to shoot the ones he believed were doing it, but I took the gun off him,' he said.

Mr Mason said he was the victim of a conspiracy of local freemasons. 'Since last November we've had our barn burned down, cattle that died of lead poisoning on the mountain, fences cut, new gates stolen, glue in the car locks.

'They're jealous because we expanded, because we've got new tractors, all the machinery a farm this size needs.'

Police said the issue was more complicated. 'There's a long history to this and we're looking into it very carefully,' a spokeswoman at Bridgend said. 'There's been a lot of stories about 'godfathers', but that's an extreme description.'

Last Saturday, 24 hours before the 41 ewes had their throats professionally cut, police found eight ewes belonging to a Pontypridd farmer among Mr Mason's sheep. Mr Mason maintained they were planted there. 'Anyone who's capable of slaughtering 41 ewes worth pounds 50 each is capable of planting someone else's sheep on our land,' he said.

Last November, Mr Mason said, he was due to appear in court charged with stealing five sheep from a local farmer, Richard Morris. 'Even before the jury came in the judge said there was no case for us to answer.'

He fears an escalation to a feud which seems to have no ending.