Pipe thefts spark gas blast fear
Thieves causing gas leaks by stealing copper pipes are putting lives at risk, the police and fire service have warned this week.
Explosions are possible in the street or in homes as thieves target gas pipes that connect meters to internal supplies.
The latest thefts were in Millgate and Wellington Road, Newark, on Thursday night of last week. Similar thefts have happened elsewhere in the town and in Retford and Worksop.
It is the latest danger posed by thieves who target metal to sell as scrap.
Some have put their own lives at risk by cutting through live electricity cables to steal copper.
Police and the fire service are warning people to check their gas supplies and those of their neighbours.
The Millgate theft was not discovered until the morning, meaning gas could have been seeping out all night.
Newark’s police chief, Inspector Martin Holford, said: “When you look at the theft of a small piece of copper pipe on a crime sheet it looks innocuous but the consequences here are vast.
“The bottom line is this poses the risk of a serious explosion. Those responsible might wind up facing a charge not of theft, but of wounding or manslaughter.
“This could ruin lives — cause severe loss of life. It is mindless stupidity.”
A commander at Newark Fire Station, Jo Ward, said the thefts were unbelievable.
“There is a severe risk of an explosion outside and inside the property. All it would take is a cigarette or a spark from a cooker to ignite a fireball,” she said.
“It is putting lives at risk. Householders need to be on their guard as long as this situation lasts. Keep an eye on your own supply and that of your neighbours.
“If you spot a pipe missing or detect gas call Transco or the fire service.”
As well as thieves cutting live cables, such as at British Diamalt, Newark, last week, this latest trend also follows the thefts of lead from church roofs and thefts of roadside drain covers.
Inspector Holford said it was assumed these thefts were to top up a scrap load before it was weighed in at a merchants.
The price of scrap is high because of demand from China for raw materials.
Police are making arrests and following up intelligence on suspects. They also carry out regular checks on dealers.