New fuel theft warning issued

If you live in the countryside and rely on heating oil or red diesel, watch out. These commodities are increasingly vulnerable to theft. Around 1.5 million UK households use heating oil for their primary source of heat.

And these heat sources are increasingly being targeted by thieves, NFU Mutual warns. Even sometimes returning to try their luck again.


Targeted

Tim Price, rural affairs specialist at NFU Mutual, says heating oil and red diesel, typically used by farmers to power tractors working the land, are increasingly being targeted. "We find that whenever the price of a commodity goes up rural thieves very quickly respond by targeting it," he says.

The cost of heating oil has risen 10% in the last six months, from just over 57 pence per litre in October 2011 to just over 63 pence per litre at the start of April 2012. Red diesel has risen 8% during the same period, rising from just over 67 pence per litre to just over 73 pence per litre.

Fuel theft last year, exacerbated by cold snaps and high prices, cost victims an average of £1,430 in lost fuel, with businesses averaging a loss of £1,743 and personal claims coming in at £911, NFU Mutual claims.

Manure disguise

But it's not just the theft. It's the clearing-up process following the theft that can be expensive and time consuming subsequently. "Moving tanks to secure locations," NFU Mutual advises, "planting shrubs and erecting fences to hide exposed tanks, installing a locking cap to tanks, checking fuel levels on a regular basis and working with other residents and businesses in local watch schemes can be effective."

However, thieves are clever: one 34-year-old Lithuanian man was recently tracked by a police helicopter after his van plus pumping kit containing a 1,000 litre tank were spotted. Thermal imaging equipment managed to track him down - despite the thief lying face down in a manure heap in an attempt to evade capture.
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