The gruesome story of a beheaded stag whose carcass was left dressed in a T-shirt has left a community baffled and sickened.

Lying at the edge of a field was the body of a fallow deer - its head missing and its carcass fitted with a bloodied white T-shirt.

Commoners living in Burley in the New Forest had spotted the antlered animal roaming around farmland in the past few months.

But this week its mutilated body was found, a knife used to cut through its neck and human clothing stretched over the carcass in a macabre act.

The head and antlers have not been recovered.

The discovery has baffled residents who have been trying to piece together why such a gruesome act was carried out.


Rumours were rife of links to witchcraft, as Burley is known to have historical connections with the occult.

One of the village's most famous inhabitants, Sybil Leek, became an authority on the subject when she lived there during the 1950s.

But police have played down any connection, despite the circumstances in which the animal was found. They say it is likely the head was removed for the antlers but have no explanation for why it had been left dressed in a T-shirt.

A spokesman said: "There is nothing to suggest that there is any link with witchcraft and to do so would be wild speculation.

"It is unusual in so far as the head has been removed and someone has put a T-shirt on its torso.

"We are led to believe it died of natural causes and that somebody then took its head for its antlers."

Meanwhile Forestry Commission bosses say it could merely have been the shameful antics of a group of practical jokers.

The deer's body, which was first discovered at land near Beechwood Lane on Sunday, has now been taken away.

Burley Parish Council chairman Roger Hutchings said: "I would not have thought there was any connection with witchcraft. But I know in this area there have been issues with horse mutilation which have been put down to all sorts of unpleasant motivations.

"Putting a T-shirt on it was odd.

"I have no recollection of anything in the past like this - not in this area.

"Most of our residents are very pro-animal and one of the main reasons people come to visit the area is to see the wildlife."