Is this the start of a rural crimewave?
FARMERS expressed their fear that a massive arson attack could signal the start of a spate of rural crimes as thieves target cheap fuel.
Tenterden and Romney Marsh National Farmers’ Union chairman Tony Weller has warned members to step up security after a fire was deliberately started in a barn on a Woodchurch farm.
The blaze in Appledore Road started shortly after 6pm last Friday.
It destroyed the barn, as well as 12,000 bales of hay, worth £100,000.
Police are now investigating the blaze which lit up the night skies on the edge of the village.
Two fire crews from Ash- ford and retained firefighters from Tenterden were at the scene throughout the night and did not leave until Saturday afternoon.
They dampened down adjacent buildings to prevent the fire from spreading.
Police officers say their investigations have discovered that an estimated 1,400 litres of red diesel, worth £700, had been stolen from a tank stored in the barn.
The farmer moved the storage tank to safety when he discovered the fire.
The owner of the barn, farmer Simon Orpin, declined to comment.
Mr Weller said: “With the price of fuel trebled, agricultural diesel is becoming even more attractive to dishonest people.
“As country people we are always on guard and we will have to step up security even more and keep alert.”
Police are treating the fire as suspicious.
They are appealing to anyone who may have seen a beige or pale-coloured Land Rover Discovery leaving the scene shortly before the fire was discovered.
Anyone with information should contact South Kent Police on 01303 289180 or call the confidential Crimestoppers hotline on 0800 555 111.
The barn at the farm in Woodchurch was destroyed in the blaze