A FORMER engineer has been left heartbroken after thieves broke into his allotment shed and stole rare agricultural equipment worth more than £2,000 that he had spent the best part of a year lovingly restoring.
Sam Mawhinney stored the rotavators and cultivator in his shed on his allotment on the Stourbridge Road in Bromsgrove.
He was contacted by fellow plot owners about the theft which is thought to have taken place between 10pm last night and 4am this morning.
The heartless thieves went to extraordinary lengths to get to the items and would have needed a large vehicle as they weighed 150kg between them.
Bolt-cutters were used to break the large lock on the entrance, panels were smashed through on Sam’s self-designed ‘double-walled’ shed to see what was in there.
The bolt-cutters were then used to break another large lock on his shed and the raiders cut through thick chains and locks which were securing the equipment inside.
Among the haul was a blue Land Master Kestrel Rotavator and green Munro Tiller both worth £700 and a yellow Norlet cultivator worth £400.
All three dated back to the 1950s – Sam had bought them in a state of disrepair and then spent three months on each one replacing all the parts and even using his engineering skills to modify them specifically for his use on the allotment.
For example one had ‘add ons’ so it could glide between potatoes without damaging them.
He said: “They were like scrap when I bought them but each one had been totally renovated with new bearings and pistons – they had all been resprayed and if you saw them you would think they were brand new.
“I’m just an engineer who likes to make things good and can’t believe this has happened after all that hard work.
“On the one hand these thieves were opportunistic but when they saw the equipment they would have known exactly what it was and how much it was worth.”
Sam added – because of the nature of the rotavators and cultivator – he thought they would now be in storage, ready to be shipped abroad.
“I’m surprised no-one heard anything because there are quite a few houses around the site and the thieves would have made a lot of noise.”
Insp Lee Page said officers were aware of an increase in thefts at allotments in Bromsgrove and were working hard to find those responsible
“Our Rural Crime officers are contacting allotment holders and working with associations and councils to assess the current security arrangements and we have targeted patrols in the area both day and night.
“It would seem there are particular items being taken by criminals and while I recognise that quite considerable steps to secure their property are being taken by some owners, the offenders are determined and equipped to bypass such stringent measures.
“Therefore I would like to again reassure the community and victims across Bromsgrove that we are doing everything we can to prevent these crimes and to catch the culprits.
“These crimes may seem minor to some but I am very aware of the impact this has on allotment holders as tools and specialist equipment such as rotavators are extremely expensive to replace and are often passed down through generations of families.
Witnesses or anyone with any information should call police on 101 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.
Allotment thefts on the rise
PEOPLE living near allotments are being urged to be vigilant and keep an eye on their local area.
There has been a spate of allotment thefts in the past week – among them was a site in Wychbold, which we featured last week.
Also, several sites in Redditch were targeted going into the weekend and between 12.30pm on Sunday and 11am on Monday a metal shed on a plot on Barnfield Road, Bromsgrove was broken into.
A red rotavator was taken and a second shed had its window smashed.
Insp Lee Page has urged allotment owners to review their security measures and offered the following advice –
· Sheds should be kept in a good condition and be located in a visible position.
· Use high quality locks, doors and hinges and ideally block off all windows.
· Use tamper proof screws or drill out screw heads.
· Visibly mark property and record the serial numbers for free on www.immobilise.com, the police’s national property register, to aid recovery of any stolen items.
· Regularly check all fencing to make sure it’s in good condition. Ideally your fence should be 2 metres high and form a solid barrier with no gaps.
· Gates should always be securely locked, and should be of a design that makes climbing difficult.
· Check there are no bins, composters, trees or bushes that can be used for climbing over the fence, and consider planting thorny bushes inside the fence to deter entry.
· A well-lit allotment is less attractive to thieves, especially if it is overlooked by footpaths or buildings.
· If you have an alarm, make sure there is a procedure in place to respond quickly, both to interrupt any crime and to avoid unnecessarily disturbing any local residents.
· Install clearly visible, weatherproof signs alerting passers-by to the opening hours, rules, contact details, all property on site is security marked, any CCTV cameras and how to report a crime.
Any tools or equipment not being used on a regular basis should be taken home.
Anyone wanting further follow-up crime prevention information they can email our rural crime officers on firstname.lastname@example.org
Insp Page said: “I would ask that anyone who has been a victim of a burglary or theft from their shed or allotment to please contact the police on 101 and if a crime is in progress or it’s an emergency please call 999.”