Brazen metal thieves stole a three-ton steel roller from a village cricket ground. The theft of the 7ft-wide, 2ft-high roller marked the fourth time in less than a month that Croxton Kerrial, near Melton, had been targeted by crooks keen to cash in on the rising price of scrap metal.
Villagers said they had been left stunned by the lengths the crooks were prepared to go to. The thieves are thought to have used a crane on the back of a lorry to steal the roller, which is usually towed behind a tractor to roll the cricket pitch outfield at the village's sports and social club, off Middle Street.
The following day, a set of three rollers was stolen from a farm just over the Leicestershire/Nottinghamshire border in Barnstone.
Croxton Kerrial sports and social club groundsman Phil Chambers, 68, said: "I couldn't believe my eyes when I discovered the roller had gone.
You could see the marks in the ground where the supporting legs had gone in to keep the lorry stable while the crane lifted it.
"There were also marks left by the ramps they used to get it on the back of the lorry. All the work I put in up there and then something like this happens."
The ground is home to four junior football clubs, two senior teams and the village cricket team.
Mr Chambers, who still plays cricket, added: "We'll need to get another. It's worth £400. Nothing's safe." The roller was stolen on the night of Monday, June 9.
Barnstone farmers Geraldine and Alan Doubleday were targeted the following day.
Mrs Doubleday said: "We had three rollers stolen from a field on Tuesday. People saw a lorry with a crane on the back, but we didn't get a registration number." The victims in both incidents called B Allsop and Sons, scrap metal merchants at Langar, to alert them to the thefts.
Secretary Lindsay Hawker said: "Scrap steel is worth about £200 to £250 a ton. Most of our customers are regulars. If we're suspicious, we take down vehicle registrations. We have our name and reputation to think of and we don't want to ruin it for the sake of a bit of scrap."
The theft in Croxton Kerrial follows the theft of a roll of lead, two brass crosses and a candlestick from the church of St John the Baptist and St Botolph in the village the previous week. Two men are on police bail in connection with that incident.
The church is facing a payout of about £1,500 in insurance excess because of the theft, and for two earlier, unsuccessful attempts by crooks to steal newly-replaced lead on the church roof. The attempts damaged the 13th century church's stonework.
Hugh Crouch, police community initiatives co-ordinator for Rutland and Melton, said: "It's an ongoing problem. We've also had manhole covers going missing from the Beler Way industrial estate, in Melton.
"Rollers like the ones stolen used to sell at farm auctions for about £25, but they're now worth hundreds of pounds in scrap value."
Police can be contacted on 0116 222 2222.
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