Two men arrested in Essex and King's Lynn in connection with Fenland tractor thefts

TWO men were arrested yesterday after police swooped on a lorry carrying stolen tractors. Detectives found farm machinery which was believed to have been stolen from Norfolk and South Lincolnshire on board an articulated at an Essex truck stop. A man arre

TWO men were arrested in connection with tractor thefts across Fenland as police swooped on a lorry in an Essex truck stop carrying stolen machines.

Detectives found farm machinery which was believed to have been stolen from West Norfolk and South Lincolnshire on board an articulated lorry.

A man arrested at the scene was taken to Lincolnshire for questioning, while a man arrested at a farm near King’s Lynn is being questioned by Norfolk officers.

Last week, police set up a special squad to target organised gangs who have been breaking into farm buildings across Fenland, stealing tractors which can be worth more than �100,000 each.

They then strip them down and export them as spare parts, with some believed to be travelling as far as Iraq and Afghanistan in a racket which costs Britain’s farmers and their insurers millions.

Lincolnshire police appealed for people using rural roads to report any sightings of tractors being driven in convoy or at night.

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Today a spokesman said: “We want to thank the public for their fantastic response in this matter.

“We have been receiving calls every day reporting the registration numbers of tractors on the roads so we can check them out. It’s exactly what we asked for and it is starting to bring results.

“We are stopping and checking every tractor we see on the roads and even though we know some farmers have been stopped more than once in a day, they still seem to be supporting our action – we’d like to thank them for their patience and support too.

“The possibility of further thefts has not disappeared, despite recent developments, and we are still asking farmers to consider their security and to think about investing in this area. It is clear that if we all work together we can tackle this issue.”

Insurer NFU Mutual said thefts rose by 15pc last year, costing it �22.9m in claims. Spokesman Nicki Whittaker said seven tractors, worth �250,000, had been stolen from farms in south Lincolnshire last month, including three from a property near Boston.

John Deere tractors were stolen from farms in Sutton Bridge and Sutton St James last week. Recent months have also seen a pair of �150,000 tractors stolen from a shed at Stow Bardolph, near Downham market, and a tractor and trailer driven off from an orchard at Marshland St James.

One of the country’s largest tractor manufacturers, John Deere, is fitting a high-tech tracker device as standard to all new machines.

Farmers in south Norfolk and north Suffolk are meeting the police to discuss the escalating risk of tractor and machinery thefts. A private meeting on Friday, May 7, is being organised by Joanna Johnson, group secretary of the Diss branch of the National Farmers’ Union, to highlight the potential threat to farmers and growers.