Fenland Fuel Thefts

11:08 Wednesday 12th January 2011 BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

ANDY HARPER: Now on our Cambridge Breakfast Programme this morning you will have heard once again stories about the theft of central heating fuel. It was rife before Christmas, when it was rocketing in price, and also of course very difficult to get hold of. I have to say that suddenly it has become very available. Our syndicate put in last Thursday for some, and by Monday it had been delivered. Sio not much of a shortage there, I think it’s fair to say, but the price, well, that’s another matter. Well as we say, there are quite a few incidents of the theft of this stuff from people’s properties, and our reporter Johnnie Dee has been out looking for somebody who maybe has suffered. And I think you’ve found an unfortunate person in Tick Fen John. Good morning once again.
JOHNNIE HALL: Good morning Andy. Good morning everyone. It’s been very interesting Andy, a real chain reaction of events really. Because I was in Ramsey earlier, and Mark just casually mentioned to me, can I find out something about heating oil being stolen. And I made a few inquiries in local businesses and shops, and I must say a big thank you to the Sherlock Holmes type people in Ramsey, because the lady who runs the Windmill Bakery came out screaming saying ooh, I’ve got a mobile phone number for you here. I’ve got someone. And then the guy in the Jolly Sailor public house said ooh, the locals have been talking about this over Christmas, the theft of heating oil, and he said Ramsey Mereside could be a place to go. Then they gave me the number of a girl called Louise in Ramsey Mereside. She located two homes that have had oil stolen. And I popped along to those, and of course they weren’t in. But Louise said ooh, my dad Brian, now he’s got a farm down Puddock Road Warboys, Tick Fen. He’ll be able to help you with his experiences. I’ve got him with me now. Just jumped out of your tractor Brian, haven’t you?.
BRIAN: Yes. To see you.
JOHNNIE HALL: Nice to see you. And thanks for doing this for us. Now what is your experience of fuel theft Brian?
BRIAN: Well it’s tractor diesel. We actually have a combine. We went this July to start the combine up, to bring it ready, and they’d completely drained the tank of 560 litres. Not a spot left in it. Took it all out of the bottom of the filter.
JOHNNIE HALL: And how did you feel?
BRIAN: A little bit aggrieved. But I think it’s going to be happening more and more in the future, because at that point that fuel cost me 46p a litre in the summer. And I’ve just filled my tank again at 71p a litre. So it’s almost, not quite doubled but you can see the rise. And the more the price of diesel goes up, the more people will want to steal it. Because red diesel will go in a car that’s got white diesel in. I’ve had a diesel car for twenty four years, and I’ve never ever had it checked once. It’s got white diesel in it, of course. I’ve never had it checked. So the risk of running around with red diesel is pretrty minimal. If they crush your car, that’s the thing, if you’re caught with red diesel, no question about it, just crush the car, whether it’s brand new or old, just crush it.
JOHNNIE: So I popped along as I say to Ramsey Mereside, and what struck me was the isolation of the buildings. You’ve got these roads, very very rural roads, and the farms and the little cottages are just like two miles apart. But the thing was, the one where it had been stolen I saw, the heating oil was in a tank in the front garden, easily visible from the road, not hidden. But then you think about the audacity of the people that are going to steal it, standing out in that front garden ..
BRIAN: Yes. Well that is it. But the problem is now you can see up the road, you can see if anything’s coming. You obviously do it in the dark. And they’re just getting pretty good at it. And like I say, the more the price of diesel goes up, the more vulnerable you become, and the more risks people will take to get cheap diesel.
JOHNNIE HALL: Well we’re standing now, as I say, we’ve got your blue tractor to the right of us, and you’re busy doing the old ploughing. What are you doing, ploughing?
BRIAN: Well I’m just chopping a bit of straw up that should have been done in the Summer. But the weather’s been against us lately.
JOHNNIE HALL:Do you feel worried? You’re so isolated here, aren’t you? Do you feel vulnerable?
BRIAN: No I don’t really feel vulnerable, because I’ve lived here for 35 years, and it’s a pretty secure place, because there’s a back entrance, but they’ve got to go by houses and everything. But they have actually been down here and gone into a fuel station, but they come equipped. For £100 you can fit yourself up with a .. I know you shouldn’t be saying this, but .. you can fit yourself up with a diesel pump, ten metres of hose, stick it in a tank, five minutes and you’ve got enough diesel to last to run your car for a week or whatever. And it’s just so easy now, and they just get the knack of doing it. And local lorries have had it stolen, and the knack there is they steal it out of the lorries, put it in cans, put it in a black dustbin liner, and just chuck it in the dyke anywhere, and then they pick it up at a later date. And that’s the way they’re getting away with it.
JOHNNIE HALL:What can you do, do you think, to defend yourself against this?
BRIAN: Catch them, I think, is the first thing. (LAUGHS) But we are lucky in as much that I think the security in this country is slightly better than it is in Bulgaria. They steal diesel there, they use a pickaxe, and just whack it through the side of the tank, lorry or car, and just catch what they want, and then clear off and leave the rest to run out. That’s the biggest problem, if they steal, and they just ignore, they take what they want and leave the pipe running, and there’s the pollution and them sort of things. Because we’re all on .. the Environment Agency come and check everything and all that, and of course you are to blame, which is not your fault, but you end up carrying the can. So there’s a danger of that. that’s one of the main dangers. But we’ve just got to catch them, and I’d urge anyone who’s had diesel stolen to report it to the police. The more reports we get, the more you’ll get done about it.
JOHNNIE HALL:Thanks ever so much Brian. We’re talking about agricultural fuel there, but if you’ve had heating oil stolen, please give us a call.
The Andy Harper Show 08459 252000.