'Workshy' gang of rustlers smashed

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The Independent Online
A band of cattle-rustlers who roamed the lush pastures of Asturias in northern Spain pursued their prey at night with stolen chainsaws. The rural bandits - five of whom were jailed this week - marauded the mountains and valleys, not in mounted cavalcades with muffled stirrups like their wild-west counterparts, but in a fleet of Ford Orions, five to a vehicle.

The gang, whose suspected leader is nicknamed "El Curripoco" ("Workshy"), is accused of stealing hundreds of cattle, herding them into trucks and passing them to intermediaries to be sold. Sometimes the thieves slaughtered the beasts in the fields, sawing them to pieces and driving off with the dismembered carcasses, leaving behind only the head, entrails and feet.

Police who broke up the ring last week recovered 15 stolen vehicles bearing false plates and traces of cattle on the back seat or in the boot, plus 10 stolen chainsaws, two pistols, six rifles, telescopic lenses, soldering equipment, 13 electric drills and jemmies used to force locks and doors. They also found the detainees' freezers bulging with joints of veal, some destined for sale, others to be eaten at home.

Whilst on the prowl for cattle, the raiders also took sheep, goats, large quantities of agricultural machinery and tools, seven televisions, five video cassette recorders and 150 gold and silver rings from the stables and farm buildings they broke into. They hid their fleet of vehicles in a rented garage.

Hundreds of farmers this week descended on Langreo and Mieres, south of the principality's capital, Oviedo, to try to identify their lost belongings amidst the recovered booty put on display. Police are looking for 35 other members of the gang, whose trafficking they could extend throughout Spain.