TWO John Deere utility vehicles worth £30,000 have been taken during a raid on a farm machinery store near Ringwood – just four months after robbers stole two others valued at £40,000.
Thieves struck for the second time at Hunt Forest Group, based in Salisbury Road, Blashford, during the early hours of Monday morning and were caught on CCTV driving the Gator machines away.
Ed Smales, sales director for turf and construction for the business which has six depots, told the A&T: “It is just terrible this has happened again so soon.
“We employ 40 people at the Blashford branch, and we are a family-run business. Crime like this impacts on us being able to pay their wages when they have families to support.
“I’m so angry about it. We increased security after the first break-in and now we are going to have to do it again.”
Mr Smales said: “We have a lot of machinery here and to undesirable people like this I suppose we are a bit of a candy store.
“It’s really frustrating. We will be upgrading security again but short of having someone sleeping on the premises, which will be very costly, I don’t know what we can do.”
He praised the local community which rallied round to help the business after it posted about the thefts on Facebook.
The post has been shared 750 times and seen by 120,000 people, and Mr Smales said: “The response has been superb, and it is only by lots of people knowing about it that these thieves might get caught.
“It will certainly make it harder for them to re-sell the machines. Everyone is fed up with this kind of thing going on. A lot of our customers are also having machinery stolen.”
A post on the Hunt Forest Group branch’s Facebook page told how the thieves took just 30 minutes to take the Gators.
It said: “It is with regret we have to post this, but we hope it protects not just us but also anybody looking to purchase a John Deere Gator in the very near future.
“At 2.15am, a gate alongside the premises was cut open, our perimeter fence compromised, and two gators stolen. All within 30 minutes. The two Gators were then driven on the main road towards Salisbury.”
The branch has posted CCTV photos of the thieves in action with an appeal for anyone who recognises them to get in touch with the branch or the police.
It said: “Our CCTV shows a remarkable amount of road users at this time. Did you see these criminals driving on the road? If so, please let us know where.”
The first Gator is an 855D model with the registration number RX67 EOW. Its serial number is 1M0855DHPHM131001.
The other is a Gator HPX 815E which had not been registered yet. Its serial number is 1M0815EBLKM020552.
Hampshire police say they are investigating the theft and ask anyone with information to call 101 quoting 44200060668.
Alternatively, contact James Parratt at the branch on 01425 472572.