Is this the start of a ru­ral crime­wave?

Kentish Express Ashford & District - - News - by Mike Ben­nett mben­nett@thek­m­group.co.uk

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.

Pic­ture Gary Browne

The barn at the farm in Wood­church was de­stroyed in the blaze

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