THE BRUTAL stabbing of a horse in a field near New Milton has sparked memories of a string of similar gruesome crimes which took place in Hampshire during the 1980s and 1990s.

Hampshire Police say the animal was found dead in a field on Walkford Lane, Walkford - near New Milton on Tuesday. It had been stabbed in the chest.

They have issued a picture of the stricken horse but said: "There are more detailed pictures not suitable for social media that are more revealing."

Officers also confirmed they had made a thorough search of the horse's paddock to find a potential explanation for the death and appealed for any witness.

"Anyone with any information on this horrific incident please contact 101 quoting 44190350493," said a spokesman.

The so-called 'Horse Ripper' terrorised the county's equines for more than a decade.

In just three years from 1990 to 1993 more than 30 horses and Hampshire Constabulary launched Operation Mountbatten to investigate the crimes. The operation was named after the first horse to be discovered, who was called Mountbatten and lived in Four Marks in Hampshire.

The attacks caused panic among horse lovers with owners sleeping in their stables at night in an attempt to ward off possible attacks on their pet and police having to warn parents not to let their children check on pet ponies at night.

Despite thousands of police hours and money spent, the culprit or culprits responsible for the attacks were never bought to justice.