Great gate robbery unleashes livestock

A GANG of thieves, stealing metal farm gates in a series of bizarre raids, are causing chaos in the agricultural heartland of the north-east of Scotland.

On Wednesday night alone, the gang stole a total of 17 heavy metal gates from farm fields across Banff and Buchan, allowing cows and other livestock to escape on to rural and main roads in the area.

And yesterday, Grampian Police appealed for the public's help in tracking down the gate thieves.

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Two weeks ago, a total of 13 metal gates were stolen in a series of raids at farms in the Crudie, Fisherie and King Edward areas of North Aberdeenshire. The same gang is believed to be responsible for a spate of raids at farms in the New Deer, Cuminestown, Turriff and Gamrie areas on Wednesday night when at least 17 metal gates, averaging 12ft in length, vanished from farm fields throughout the area.

Farmers and their families were still rounding up the last of their missing livestock yesterday morning after the gang struck.

Inspector Donny Chisholm, from the Banff office of Grampian Police, is heading the investigation. He told The Scotsman yesterday

: "The theft of these gates obviously causes me great concern. Apart from the financial loss to the farmers, this totally irresponsible behaviour by those who are stealing them is presenting a significant danger to motorists and animals by allowing the livestock to escape from their fields on to the roads, thus endangering their lives."

Insp Chisholm continued: "Those responsible are definitely well organised and the thefts are well orchestrated. It would take at least two persons to lift these heavy gates and obviously they would need a large vehicle or trailer to transport them."

But he admitted: "To be honest, I don't have a clue what their motives are. I am keeping an open mind on that. I don't know if they are selling the gates for scrap, selling them on, or whether they are reusing them."

Insp Chisholm added that a number of officers visited farms in the area to encourage farmers to security-mark their remaining gates with UV pens.

Ian Murray, the secretary of the New Deer and Turriff branch of the National Farmers' Union of Scotland, said: "These thefts certainly caused the farmers and their families a considerable amount of hassle, in that they were up in the middle of the night and out until this morning rounding up their cattle."

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Mr Murray said that while the gates cost between 60 and 100 to buy, they would have little scrap value. "The gang obviously has an outlet of some sort for the gates," he said. "I would guess they are flogging them to farmers in a different part of the country."