Belfast Telegraph

Forecourt crime wave fears as thieves steal £11,000 worth of diesel

By Chris Kilpatrick

Petrol station owners have been warned to brace themselves for a surge in attempts by thieves to steal fuel.

The message came from the Irish Petrol Retail Association (IPRA) who said Northern Ireland fuel suppliers should be on high alert after a spate of such incidents in the UK and Republic.

IPRA spokesman Michael Griffin was speaking after thieves stole between £10,000 and £11,000 of diesel from a filling station on the Ballyrobert Road in Crawfordsburn.

He said the high cost of petrol and diesel was proving a lure to criminals and added that he was aware of at least eight forecourts being targeted in the Republic this year, resulting in tens of thousands of pounds in lost revenue by retailers.

“There has been quite a lot of it,” said Mr Griffin. “We have had a few cases round Dublin and Wexford in recent months.

“It has been on the increase due to the value of the product. Businesses in Northern Ireland definitely should be ready for this spreading north.”

Mr Griffin advised retailers to bolster security, ensure fuel tanks are locked and to contact their insurance company to check they are fully covered.

The PSNI is searching for the thieves who targeted the family-run business sometime between Friday evening and Saturday morning.

The culprits broke locks on the tanks before siphoning 7,000 litres of fuel.

It is understood to be only the second time in Northern Ireland that a filling station has been targeted in such a crime.

The petrol station is owned by brother and sister Jim and Linda McCormick and was built by their late father, Jack, in 1955. Miss McCormick said the first they knew of the theft was when a customer complained about a problem with a pump.

She said the summer months are traditionally one of the busiest trading times of the year for the pair who work there for up to 14 hours each day, seven days a week.

“The local attractions are a great pull for us. We have a lot of days like that — it’s great for our business. It helps you through the bad days,” she said.

“You do depend on that seasonal tourism. We can’t get another tank in now because we haven’t paid for the other one. We’ve no turnover to pay for it, we’re a small business.

“The money’s not there and the banks aren’t giving any leeway with that.

“If I order another tank in tonight and the same thing happens again, where do I stand? The insurance isn’t going to cover me for that one.”

It is the latest blow for the McCormicks who run a Spar store on the site. In 2003 the shopfront had to be rebuilt after ram-raiders targeted it. And three years ago a busy access road used by their customers was closed for 10 months.

DUP Assembly member for the area Alex Easton said he was disgusted at the theft.

In a statement appealing for information, police said they were also investigating a number of commercial and domestic burglaries in the Helen's Bay and Crawfordsburn area.

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