September 14, 2008

Scrap Metal Haul Sparks More Arrests

By Karen Inchley

Two more people have been arrested following Britain's biggest ever seizure of suspected stolen metal.

The two, a 75-year-old man and a 63-year-old woman from Cheadle, were arrested by British Transport Police on suspicion of handling stolen goods and money laundering.

They have been bailed until December 2008.

Early estimates indicated that suspected stolen metal worth up to pounds700,000 was seized from the Cheadle scrap yard during the swoop on Wednesday, August 27.

It was part of a joint inquiry involving British Transport Police (BTP) and Staffordshire Police.

BTP officers, together with Staffordshire Police's Operation Amalgam team, searched the scrap yard belonging to New Haden Metals, recovering more than 350 tonnes of suspected stolen rail track, along with other rail equipment, beer kegs, cabling and fencing.

A 43-year-old man from the Tean area was arrested, interviewed and also released on police bail until December.

Scrap yard dealers have joined forces with the police in a bid to combat a spiralling rise in metal thefts.

Police have warned that they will continue to crack down on metal thieves.

Officers are now trying to reunite the stolen items with their owners.

Tony Nugent from the BTP Organised Crime Unit, who is leading the inquiry, said: "We are still in the early stages of this investigation. However, officers from two dedicated teams in Staffordshire Police and BTP are working round the clock to bring all those who share responsibility for this crime to justice.

"Since the raid, scrap metal dealers have begun to work closely with the police in an effort to combat the problem. The help we are getting from legitimate scrap dealers is invaluable.

"With the high price of metals on world commodity markets, metal and cable theft has become a significant problem for the rail industry, utilities and telecommunications providers.

"On the railways, theft of cable and other metals causes massive disruption to services. Thieves are risking their lives as well as prison.

"This has been a major seizure and scrap dealers need to be aware that police forces across the country are co-operating in a crackdown on metal theft."

Chief inspector Simon Tweats, Staffordshire Police lead on metal thefts, said: "There is a need for people and communities to be extra vigilant.

"We should remain suspicious of anyone gathering scrap metal beyond normal working practices, especially outside of daylight hours.

"Operation Amalgam uses information from communities to identify its next targets and we will continue to arrest metal thieves and others who are handling stolen goods."

Anyone with information on metal and cable theft on the rail system should contact British Transport Police on Freefone 0800 405040 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

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