An arable farmer in Northumberland who had £80,000 worth of machinery stolen has said rural crime is “crushing the countryside”.

Andrew Frost had a Massey Ferguson tractor, a combination drill, excavator and quad bike stolen from his buildings in Wooler between 5pm on Monday 27 January and 8.30am on Tuesday 28 January.

The farmer, who also does contracting work, told Farmers Weekly that the brazen nature of the theft and the amount of machinery taken was like nothing he had seen before, and could cripple his business.

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He said: “It knocks the wind out of your sails and my first thought was to just pack it all in.

“These are organised criminals who look like they’ve used an arctic lorry, judging by the tyre marks. Our concern is that by the time the police started looking into it, they are probably already out of the country.

“We’re living on tenterhooks; I’m fed up and you don’t know who you can trust anymore.”

The 54-year-old added that he was busy installing more CCTV and sensors at the secluded location where the machinery was stolen from.

He added: “I cannot fault the police, they want to get to the bottom of this, but where do they start? We need to work together and people need educating.”

Mr Frost estimated the value of the machinery taken at £80,000, but said he would receive “nothing like that” back from the insurers. It took him more than a year to find the excavator and he said he had spent thousands on upgrades.

Farm theft a priority

An arable farmer from Alnwick, who did not want to be named, told Farmers Weekly the police needed to do more to reduce farm thefts.

He said: “There has definitely been a rise in incidents. Everyone is turning rather sick at it, and what will happen is someone will get caught stealing and there will be a serious injury.

“A lot of these contractors take pride in their work and machinery. People are more brazen and the police are less visible on the roads because they haven’t got enough staff.”

Northumbria Police said it was investigating the theft of a red 2008 Massey Ferguson 6490 tractor fitted with a blue Lemkem combination drill, a red 2015 Case CX55B excavator and a green 2018 Polaris 570cc Sportsman quad bike from a business on Brewery Road, Wooler.

Anyone with information is asked to contact officers via 101, quoting reference number 200 28/01/20, or through the independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.