Specially-adapted trucks have been used to steal heating oil and diesel in Laois, Superintendent Philip Lyons told a Mountmellick Joint Policing Committee meeting last Thursday night.
He said Gardai had seized two of the trucks, one in Abbeyleix and one in the Mountmellick area. In the latter incident, the thieves had escaped in a high-powered car after being pursued by police, he revealed.
A spokesperson for Abbeyleix Garda Station outlined how the operation worked: “Four of these 1,000 litre plastic tanks were placed on the back of a lorry, which was covered in this case by a refrigeration unit.
“A hole is then cut in the floor of the trailer for a submersive pump. The thieves drive the lorry into a garage forecourt and park over the manhole of the garage’s fuel storage containers. A trap door will allow a person to put down the submersive pump which is run off the battery of the lorry.”
The specially adapted truck would also be fitted with heavy mudflaps to disguise the pump being lowered into the fuel containers.
The garda spokesperson said it would take quite a while to fill the four tanks, and urged homeowners and businesses to be extra cautious with securing their oil tanks. When the thieves were detected in the process of stealing the fuel in the Abbeyleix area in October of last year, they escaped on foot, but the lorry was seized.
Abbeyleix Gardai believe this is not a local crime and said similar incidents had been reported in other areas of the country.
At the Mountmellick meeting, Supt Philip Lyons explained that the use of the trucks was prevalent in Cavan and Monaghan, and was now spreading south. Committee member Mr Paddy Buggy said there were many reports of heating oil and diesel “disappearing.”
Supt Lyons noted that 1,000 litres of heating oil was now worth a lot of money. The theft of oil from places like schools was difficult enough to prevent, he said. “We are trying to make people aware - to have tanks locked.
“They (thieves) leave enough oil behind to keep a place going for a week or a fortnight. This makes detection more difficult,” he added.
Replying to Mrs Sheelagh Coyle, Supt Lyons confirmed: “There’s buyers out there.”
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