Barbecues, lawnmowers, gnomes and fish among garden thieves' targets

Nearly a fifth of home owners say they have had items stolen from their garden - with barbecue equipment, outdoor furniture and plant pots being the most likely items to disappear.

Some 17% of people surveyed have had items stolen from their garden, Co-op Insurance found.

More than a quarter (27%) of people admit to leaving belongings lying outside in the garden across the summer months.

In what could also be a security risk, some 22% of those surveyed leave their windows open, while a fifth (20%) have stored home delivery items in their gardens.

Shrubs, hanging baskets and garden machinery such as lawnmowers were also items particularly likely to have been stolen from people's gardens, the research found.

In a smaller number of cases, bags of coal, garden gates, gnomes and fish from ponds had also been taken, according to the survey.

A goldfish
Fish were among the more unusual items to be stolen (PA)

Caroline Hunter, head of home insurance at Co-op, said: "Opportunistic burglaries do happen, and items left in gardens over the summer could be targeted.

"Make sure any items of values are stored away, gates and windows are locked, and any items that could be used for a break in are put away or out of sight."

Some 2,000 home owners were surveyed.

Here are Co-op Insurance's tips to protect garden items:

- Make sure you are clear on what is covered on your insurance. Insurers may specify that items should be locked in a shed, garage or brought into the house. If you have left your items unlocked and outside, insurers may refuse to pay out.

- Store away items that could be used to access your house - including ladders and small, heavy items that could be used to smash windows.

- Keep any valuable items out of sight and wherever possible keep them locked away or indoors.

- Try to avoid asking for delivery parcels to be stored in your garden if you are going to be out, as these can be easy targets.

- Secure sheds with a padlock attached to a strong hasp and staple. Secure shed hinges with coach bolts. Make sure gates, garages and outbuildings remain bolted with a secure lock. If you have a tree or plant that is particularly valuable, you could consider buying an automatic alarm which will activate if anyone tries to remove it.

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