Black mar­ket thieves steal vil­lage’s an­tique post­box

The Daily Telegraph - - News - By Olivia Rudgard

A GANG of post­box thieves could be tar­get­ing the Home Coun­ties af­ter an an­tique ex­am­ple worth £800 dis­ap­peared, a coun­cil­lor has warned.

Ni­cholas Field-john­son, of Ox­ford­shire county coun­cil, said gangs were tar­get­ing rare Vic­to­rian post­boxes be­cause there was a “strong mar­ket” for them in Eastern Europe.

In April, a 19th-cen­tury post­box was stolen from a stone wall in Asthall Leigh, west Ox­ford­shire. Mr Field­john­son said he feared thieves would now tar­get other post­boxes in the area.

He said: “They are quite ex­pen­sive plus they’re more por­ta­ble than the old red tele­phone boxes. We’ve been go­ing back and forth with Royal Mail and they’ve said they will re­place it with an Ed­war­dian one, which are much more com­mon.”

An­drew Young, chair­man of the Let­ter Box Study Group, said: “It is a prob­lem. I haven’t heard the Eastern Europe issue but they could be sold any­where. My feel­ing is ac­tu­ally that peo­ple buy them for them­selves with­out be­ing aware that they could be han­dling stolen goods. They think ‘how sweet’ – lots of them are in front gar­dens to col­lect mail. I’ve seen them in wed­ding venues painted white, and one in a the­atre as a place to put business cards.”

He es­ti­mated that up to 200 of the boxes could be stolen each year, with many end­ing up for sale on­line. Not all post­boxes for sale will be stolen, how­ever, as un­til 2003 the Royal Mail sold off de­com­mis­sioned let­ter boxes.

A Royal Mail spokesman said: “The theft of post­boxes is rel­a­tively rare. Royal Mail takes the issue ex­tremely se­ri­ously, and works closely with po­lice forces across the UK to pre­vent the un­law­ful re­moval of post­boxes.

“We also de­ploy pre­ven­tive mea­sures and tech­nolo­gies to de­ter theft, in­clud­ing foren­sic tags, per­ma­nent metal mark­ing sys­tems and elec­tronic track­ing”.

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