SATANISTS have hit back at speculation that they were to blame for beheading a deer and dumping its body in a country lane near Northwich.

Former Barnton resident Brad Wilson contacted the Guardian to explain that members of their religion could not have been responsible for the crime.

The 19-year-old, who grew up in Spencer Street but now lives in Knutsford, said the rumours were offensive because the Church of Satan believed life was the most sacred commodity and cruelty to animals was forbidden.

“We are strongly against the abuse of animals and children, in particular,” he said.

“These are regarded to be the purest aspects of life.

“The killing of animals may only occur when it is absolutely necessary for personal survival, in self defence or for food. But never, under any circumstances, are they ritually abused and killed.”

Last week the Guardian reported that a deer was found beheaded in Pickmere. The discovery led police to speculate that the decapitation could be linked to ‘devil worship’.

However, officers could not confirm what had happened and closed the case.

Last week two Satanists contacted the Guardian to say members of their group would not be responsible.

A man who had previously emailed the paper under an assumed name said most modern occultists would see the decapitation as a cruel murder.

“Few occultists nowadays believe in animal sacrifice,” he said. “In many branches of the various philosophies which make up the occult, environmentalists and vegetarians are prominent figures.”

Police and Tatton Park rangers had been confused as to why the young stag’s head was taken but the body was left to rot in Pickmere Lane.

The animal would not have developed proper antlers, so it is unlikely it would have been taken for mounting on a wall.

However, last week it emerged the killing could have been a failed attempt at poaching.

A man who attended the scene, but would not be named, said the criminals appeared to have gutted the young stag to prepare it for sale.