A Dungiven farmer has been left to count the cost following a fire which destroyed a hay shed and killed eight of his livestock on Saturday night.
Police have said the cause of the fire is unknown however eyewitnesses reported seeing a vehicle leaving the scene in suspicious circumstances only moments before the blaze.
The hay shed at Dernaflaw Road, Dungiven was totally destroyed despite the actions of six fire appliances from Dungiven, Limavady, Maghera and Crescent Link.
The initial 999 call was made at 10.19pm.
A spokesperson for the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service stated: “Firefighters attended a fire in a shed containing hay and animals.
“A mechanical digger was used to remove hay into open ground to enable firefighters to dampen down the flames.
“Firefighters rescued a cow but unfortunately eight sheep died in the fire, the cause of which has yet to be established. “The incident was dealt with at 5.52am.”
The farmer and owner of the hay shed and livestock, declined to make any comment on the matter but was understood to be upset at the losses.
Sinn Fein councillor for the area, Tony McCaul told the Journal: “The farmer can barely talk about it but he is convinced it is arson.
“A vehicle was seen leaving the scene prior to the fire being detected.
“I would urge whoever is responsible to stop.
“Hard to believe someone is targeting hard pressed farmers who are finding it difficult enough in the current climate without losing livestock and feed like this.”
A PSNI spokesperson said: “The cause of the fire is unknown but anyone with information should contact the PSNI on 0845 600 8000.