Secret Scotland

If it's secret, and in Scotland…

Moat House – the story that just keeps going

Moat Brae © Copyright Darrin Antrobus

Funny how you can innocently note a little story… think you will just make one post… then find you have started a life’s work. (I haven’t counted how many posts I’ve made on this, or rolled together in later entries when I realised the story was going to run.)

Such seems to be the case with the restoration of Moat House in Dumfries.

For those not yet aware, I first noticed this house was hopefully going to be rescued and restored in memory of writer JM Barrie, creator of Peter Pan, and who had credited the house as having been inspiration in the story.

That was over 5 years ago: Tourism opportunity missed.

As you’ll see from that short little ramble, my interest then was not so much in the house and its history, but the problems that those wishing to save it were in having in raising funds and support to save it, and I had a little kick at those who were calling for tourism to Scotland to be grown – yet they were not chipping in a penny to bring visitors to a place then could be widely recognised.

Since then, I’m glad to say that the supported of the project have managed to raise finance and support, and recently Dumfries Peter Pan house project reaches milestone.

Metal theft

However, only a matter of days after the project reached this point (making the house watertight) it fell victim to the  scum which is plaguing the country at the moment, metal thieves.

These cretins will steal any metal, regardless of the danger, cost, or inconvenience cause to others. They rip out live distribution cables and rail systems, raid substations, tear out phone and telecommunications cabling, smash war memorial to tear out the brass plaques, and as happened to Moat house, strip the lead flashing used to make roofs watertight.

Usually, they will get only scrap metal value for what they steal, while the original owners are left with bills of thousands to make good the damage they cause – in the case of Moat House, the cost was estimated at £2,000.

However, attacks on electricity supplies or phone cables can cost much more, and more significantly, put lives in danger.

There are so many stories about this online now that there is no need for me to post links – just search ‘metal theft’ and you will find many current stories, for example:

£40,000 of damage caused as thieves rip metal from Benarty Primary School | Edinburgh & East | News | STV

Lewis Macdonald fears lives could be lost unless metal theft is tackled | Aberdeen & North | News | STV

New laws planned to tackle £12m metal theft boom – Top stories – The Scotsman

This action has probably eaten still further into the money the Moat House project has raised, since it means: Dumfries Peter Pan property security stepped up.

See also:

Police launch Operation Nickel to catch tool and metal thieves – Dumfries and Galloway Standard

July 27, 2013 Posted by | Civilian | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Luxury cars stolen on my doorstep

I pass the Sherwood Garage on a daily basis, and usually see at least one offering that catches my eye, although I have to admit that the trend for Chelsea Tractors has lessened that occurrence in recent years. But the remaining stock is generally from the more upward end of the car food chain, and even the exotic on occasion. A few years ago, it even got some of my business when a fairly rare car showed up in the lot. And in a strange turn of events, I even have a set of architect’s plans for the site, from the days when it was a real garage, and sold petrol.

These days, I just like to walk past (note, walk) and watch out for the occasional Lamborghini, Ferrari, Bentley, Rolls, or similar toy that appears in the yard, as they seem to have access to just about anything, regardless of price.

Sherwood Garage

Unfortunately, when I browsed the news this morning, the news was not so good, with an overnight raid seeing six cars taken from the yard at some time between 11 pm Sunday night and 1 am Monday morning.

Luxury cars stolen in Glasgow garage raid

Sherwood Garage, Baillieston, has cars stolen in £80,000 raid | News | Glasgow | STV

The vehicles taken were: a Jaguar X Type, black Porsche Boxster, a black Porsche Cayenne, a silver Audi S3, a black Ford Focus ST, and a blue Ford, which police said were valued between £75,000 and £80,000.

That shows they were after the easy to move stuff, as there are often single cars sitting there that with that price on their windscreen, but they are easy to spot, and more specialised.

I suppose the disappointing thing is to have something like this happen on what amounts to your own doorstep, rather than somewhere far away.

Anyone with information relating to the theft from the used car garage is asked to call Shettleston Police Office on 0141 532 4800.

The reports suggest the thieves broke into the office where the keys were kept, and this is something that has had me puzzled for years, more so when the keys are now generally paired to the cars, and immobilisers and/or alarms are standard, and reasonably effective to all but an “expert”. The downside of this success is that thefts now begin not with breaking into the car, but breaking into the garage (or home) first, to get the keys. When I’ve been at such places and checking or buying a car, I’ve never understood the logic that has most of them with the keys hanging on boards on the wall, meaning that it does not take a great deal of thought to work out the easiest way to steal cars from the forecourt. Not putting them in a safe, or taking them off-site seems lax, and almost an invitation.

I was also amused by the Police statement where Detective Constable Graham Harries said:

There is a local bar, close to the garage and I am appealing to anyone who may have been in the pub or in the area around the time of the theft.

It’s possible people came outside to smoke a cigarette and may have seen activity at the garage. I am appealing to anyone who has any information or knowledge to get in touch with us.

Many years ago I had the “good luck” to be rammed from behind by a kid in his shiny new turbo Fiesta, while I was waiting to turn right almost outside the pub door. I’d been watching the kid in my rear view mirror, and he was doing anything but looking where he was going, or paying attention to the road as he was having a good laugh with his mate in the passenger seat, and I had really hoped for a break in the oncoming traffic to get out of his way. But there was no gap, and when he arrived where I was waiting, he was still looking at his mate and laughing.

Despite happening at the door of the pub, not one of the guys who had been downing their pints there saw a thing when I asked.

Sherwood Garage

May 22, 2013 Posted by | Civilian, Lost | , , , | Leave a comment

Warning as rural fuel thefts double in a year

Oil drum barrelI picked up on this last year, as the cold snap appeared to be the cause: More heating oil thefts

Clearly an unfortunate side effect of the cold, as those who were thieving then have decided that there a handy source of easy income to be had.

Police are warning homeowners to be vigilant following a huge increase in the theft of heating oil from rural properties.

The number of fuel thefts has more than doubled this year, according to a new crime report.

Farms in remote parts of Scotland are an easy target for a growing number of fuel thieves.

Domestic fuel is now one of the most common targets for thieves in the countryside, and as a result the cost of oil heating has soared.

In the first half of the year, almost £250,000 of oil, or “liquid gold” as it is becoming know, was stolen from rural properties in Scotland.

via Warning as rural fuel thefts double in a year | Highlands & Islands | STV News.

I was mildly surprised to see the Dragons (on BBC Two Programmes – Dragons’ Den) turn down a pair who had developed a system for monitoring remotely located fuel storage tanks, and issuing and automated alert if the fuel was removed in a suspicious manner.

They seemed to have two reservations: first was the designers’ unwillingness to reveal any detail of how the system identified a suspicious change in level, or the criteria used; and second was the Dragons’ assertion that existing fuel systems were already capable of monitoring levels remotely, and of alerting a central monitor that the tank was being emptied, when the level would fall, and trigger an automatic signal. Usually used to initiate an order to refill the tank for the customer, the Dragons seemed to think this system could do the same as the ‘new’ on, probably with little change as it was already in place, so rendered the ‘new’ system a bad investment.

Without knowing the details the inventors would not disclose on television, it’s hard to decide if an opportunity was missed.

But, if the existing remote monitoring and ordering systems were not being redesigned and sold with new security options, somebody in those businesses should be sent home – and told not to bother coming (tomorrow, or again).

It’s sad that the only industry that seems to be booming is crime.

Here we have theft of fuel.

Around the country, there is an epidemic of metal theft, with war memorial having their plaques ripped off, railways having live cabling ripped out using stolen construction vehicles, BT lines being ripped up, bronze statues, gates, metal roofs, and many other items being stolen to be sold for pennies in comparison to their value – and cost to replace for the owner.

Rail services are disrupted, telephone and internet connection are lost, local electricity supplies are cut off, and many people are severely distressed by the lack of respect to those remembered on memorials. The latter can also be the only record in some cases, so irrecoverable historic records of names are also lost.

These thieves need to be dealt with, as do the unscrupulous scrap metal dealers who are happy to part with cash for items that they know are stolen.

There are now stories appearing in the media that special police operations are being set up to target these criminals, and there are further calls for cash dealing in scrap metal to be ended, meaning that anyone doing so must be breaking the law, and cannot plead ignorance of the stolen nature of the material being dealt.

Still going on in 2012

Police in the Borders have urged businesses to be on their guard after a spate of diesel thefts in the region.

The latest incident happened at a yard on Sprouston Road in Kelso at 00:15.

The Whitlaw Industrial Estate in Lauder was also targeted sometime between 8 and 11 January.

A police spokesman said there had been a “marked increase” in such crimes and asked businesses and the public to report any suspicious activity near HGVs or industrial estates.

Via: BBC News – Lauder and Kelso diesel raids spark fuel warning

December 22, 2011 Posted by | Civilian | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Classic Land Rover destroyed by arson after theft

I’m giving this one a mention because I can feel for the owners, having similar interests myself – though not for Land Rover.

While the usual remark is to wonder what’s in the heads of the rubbish that carries out crimes such as this, break-in, theft, arson, the answer is really quite simple – nothing.

After their ‘ten minutes of fun’ they have nothing and melt away into nothing, while the family who restored and cherished the stolen vehicle also have nothing – as the fire has damaged it beyond repair, leaving nothing useful to show for some four years worth of effort.

It’s made all the worse when it turns out that the rubbish targeted this vehicle, and it was taken after padlocks were sawn off its garage, so it was not opportunist crime, but planned in advance.

Vintage Land Rover stolen and set on fire | Dundee and Tayside | STV News

May 15, 2011 Posted by | Civilian, Transport | , , , , | Leave a comment

More heating oil thefts

Oil drum barrelUnfortunately, it looks as if what appeared to be a seasonal aberration – the theft of heating oil in the Highlands – is set to become more prevalent, with stories of travelling criminals coming in from Northumbria and through Dumfries and Galloway. The quiet, rural areas of the Scottish Borders would seem to be ideal for such gangs to operate without being noticed.

Not only are homes being targeted, but haulage businesses and forestry construction sites – one losing almost 2,000 litres of red diesel.

Many places are relatively isolated, making things easier for the thieves, especially if the storage is remote from occupied places.

It’s difficult, if not impossible, for the police to be present everywhere, and the best they have been able to do is advise owners to increase security around their tanks, fence them off to restrict access, and fit security lighting.

Not surprisingly, steadily rising fuel prices are said to be the reason for the rise in these thefts.

February 13, 2011 Posted by | Civilian | , , , | Leave a comment

Kelvingrove art returned after 15 years

Empty picture frameI was intrigued to see a news story about the return of three paintings which had been stolen from Glasgow’s Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum.

It used to be one of my great retreats in the past, somewhere to go and enjoy some peace and quiet (unless I made the mistake of dropping in when there was a class of primary school kids, or a toddler, there for a treat – bless their little banging and stamping feet), although I’ve only been there twice since the refurbishment, and don’t really feel like making the effort to go for another visit. Not for some peace and quiet anyway.

The recovery was triggered by the appearance of one of the stolen paintings appearing in an auction, and being recognised by the curator. This, in turn, led to another of the stolen works, and then a third from yet another location.

While the story has a happy ending – although it seems that some of those in the chain of supply which included these pictures may not be too happy from the resulting legal actions – I was disappointed to read that the case seems to have begun back in 1996, and not because of the discovery of an obvious and outright theft, such as from a burglary or similar action, but through the action of auditors, who alleged in a report they prepared regarding Glasgow Museums collection that a number of works of art had been removed and offered for sale on the black market. This, it seems, arose because the arrangements then in place for the recording and storage of artefacts was unsatisfactory.

From this, it seems safe to assume that the three pictures referred to in this case are only a sample of the works that have been lost in this way. Other assumptions, or implications can be drawn from the comments too.

It’s a very unfortunate an uncomfortable finding, and I wonder just how many artefacts have gone walkabout in the same way. And if the inventory system has been upgraded in light of the audit?

January 26, 2011 Posted by | Civilian | , , , | Leave a comment

Heating oil crisis?

Oil drum barrelIt looks as if heating oil became a source of panic and crisis over the recent cold spell, and it looks as if there were two causes. What seems to be less clear is whether or not there had to be.

We used to have oil-fired central heating, then the price of oil went up… and it had to go. In its heyday, we consumed the contents of a 600 gallon tank (600 UK gallons = 2,728 litres) such that we had to have it filled twice a year, sometimes maybe three times. That doesn’t mean we emptied it every time, rather we never allowed it to reach a level such that we were not ready for winter, and some crisis in supply.

I think it’s maybe called something like ‘Planning ahead’, or ‘Accepting responsibility for yourself’, or maybe even both.

Regardless, we understood we were not on any sort of fixed supply line like gas or electricity that was not down to us to maintain, and recognised that we were responsible for having heating oil in place, with a contingency in reserve. If we froze, then there was only one party responsible, and all we had to do was look in the mirror to find out who.

That’s why I have little or no sympathy for those referred to in this report about heating oil. To use one of the words of the complainants, the only ‘outrageous’ thing I can see it that they seem to expect sympathy for either for failing to plan for their own security, or have tried to play at price brinkmanship with the suppliers, and got caught out.

In any event, had they not all waited until the last minute, there would have been no ‘shortage’, or need for the Scottish Government to describe deliveries totalling 1.8 million litres that arrived by ship to Inverness and Aberdeen on December 20 as ‘vital’.

I guarantee they won’t learn, and there will be a new batch of non-planners and price-gamblers ready to provide another ‘oil crisis’ headline next year.

However…

More serious in deserving of sympathy are those who find themselves affected by theft. They didn’t have a choice – and since they must have had enough oil in their tanks to make it worth stealing, are also the ones who acted responsibly and were ready for the cold.

Thefts of heating oil from properties in parts of the Highlands rose during the prolonged period of bad weather last year, police have said.

In a report, Northern Constabulary said domestic oil tanks may also have been targeted because of the current financial climate.

Thefts were reported in Ross and Cromarty and Lochaber.

They have done nothing wrong, but find themselves without oil and heating when they need it most, thanks to the attention of the lowest rubbish that we have to share space with, and are happy to indulge in potentially life-threatening crimes simply for their own personal gain. I doubt any of the thefts were for personal use.

Thinking back, our tank would probably have been relatively safe from such an attack. Being large, it was made from substantial steel plate, and was plumbed in to a remote filling point (so could not be back-syphoned. Even full, it made a noise like thunder of bumped. I can think of a couple of way it could have been stolen from, but these could also have been secured fairly simply.

Modern tanks seem to particularly vulnerable. They are smaller and lighter, and seem to have more vulnerable fittings. There also seems to be a tendency to fit them closer to the road for easy access, to make things easier for the delivery driver. Unfortunately, that makes it easier for anyone to get to.

We didn’t realise how glad we were to see our oil-fired system go when we could replace it with gas. For one thing, it was more reliable, cleaner, and didn’t smell, and it was only after a year or two we came to realise that the old system has been the source of an extremely fine black soot that was barely noticeable, but had been coating everything for years.

< a title=”BBC News – Heating oil prices: Your stories” href=”http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-12014562” target=”_blank”>BBC News – Heating oil prices: Your stories</a>

January 25, 2011 Posted by | Civilian | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Gates stolen from Tayport War Memorial

Police in Fife are investigating the theft of the bronze entry gates to the War Memorial at Craig Road in Tayport.

The gates, valued in the region of £7,000 were stolen some time during June/July of this year.

It’s a sad reflection of the rubbish we have to share space with, as this follows an earlier item featured, regarding a mining disaster memorial statue stolen weeks after unveiling.

Unfortunately, the loss of the gates was not notified for some time, as it seems passers-by assumed the council had simply removed them for cleaning or maintenance, and no-one from the council noticed their absence.

It is thought that the delay means they are gone for good, having been melted down by the thieves as scrap.

Anybody with information relating to this theft is asked to call Fife Police on 0845 600 5702 or call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 where all calls are treated anonymously.

October 17, 2010 Posted by | World War I | , , , | Leave a comment

Stolen Auchengeich statue replaced

Mine disaster memorial 1959

Auchengeich memorial statue © Robert Murray

Back in November, we noted a particularly disgusting theft: Mining disaster memorial statue stolen weeks after unveiling

Likened by one commentator to stealing from a grave, the bronze statue had cost £35,000 and been unveiled by First Minister Alex Salmond only a few weeks before it vanished. The statue remembered one of Scotland’s worst mining disasters, when 47 men died after being trapped by an underground fire at the Auchengeich Colliery in North Lanarkshire, on September 18, 1959. Only one miner survived the fire, caused by an electrical fault 1,000 feet below ground.

Now, an exact replica of the original memorial has been unveiled on the same site, and the replacement statue has been fitted with a tracker and will be monitored by CCTV.

As with the original, the new statue was also unveiled by First Minister Alex Salmond, who said:

Today is about a community overcoming adversity. The Auchengeich miner has been restored to its rightful place thanks to the determination of all of those who were not beaten by this act of theft. I share the outrage and anger of the local community, who lost so many husbands, fathers brothers and sons half a century ago, and who have suffered yet more heartache as a result of this senseless crime.

Following a massive public outcry over the theft, North Lanarkshire and East Dunbartonshire councils provided the £25,000 needed to replace the statue. The new statue contains the latest state-of-the-art technology allowing it to be continually monitored by police and council officials.

Speaking at the unveiling, Councillor Tom Curley, Provost of North Lanarkshire, thanked the First Minister and said:

When I was told about the theft my emotions were a mixture of sadness and disbelief. This is something that should not have happened. This went beyond theft. This was playing with grief, a grief I shared.

Despite extensive police enquires, no trace of the statue, or those involved in the theft, has been found, and it would seem likely that it is gone forever – probably turned into nothing more than scrap by people who have no conception of the word ‘respect’.

June 5, 2010 Posted by | Civilian | , , , | 1 Comment

Mining disaster memorial statue stolen weeks after unveiling

Mine disaster memorial 1959

Auchengeich memorial statue © Robert Murray

Unveiled by First Minister Alex Salmond only on September 18, 2009, a six foot bronze statue which cost £35,000 has been stolen from a memorial to one of Scotland’s worst mining disasters.

47 men died after being trapped by an underground fire at the Auchengeich Colliery, North Lanarkshire, on September 18, 1959. Only one miner survived the fire, caused by an electrical fault 1,000 feet below ground.

The BBC report of the incident contained the following statements:

Superintendent Henry Campbell, of Cumbernauld Police office, said, “This crime has outraged the local community and we will do everything possible to trace those responsible and return the statue to its rightful place. A vehicle must have been used to transport it and I would appeal to anyone who was in the area anytime after midnight and noticed suspicious behaviour. I would also urge those responsible to think about what they have done and what impact this crime has had on the local community. Do the right thing and return it, or let someone know where it is.”

Vice president of Auchengeich Miners’ Welfare Club, Ian Lowe, who was down the pit on the day of the disaster, said: “I felt sick when I found out it had been stolen. I helped fight the fire 50 years ago and knew the men who lost their lives, and I was heavily involved in the first memorial which was put in place 25 years ago. It was never touched but this new memorial has only lasted two months. It is an absolute shame. It is like stealing from a grave.”

Local councillor William Hogg said he was  absolutely shocked and disgusted by the mindless crime, and appealed to anyone with any information about this theft to contact Strathclyde Police immediately. He also took the opportunity to assure everyone that the council would do everything possible to ensure that the statue would be replaced.

November 19, 2009 Posted by | Civilian | , , , | Leave a comment

Stolen: 1 bottle of whisky

whiskyIn a possibly bizarre moment of mindlessness, thieves helped themselves to a limited edition bottle of 30 year old Milleneum Clock whisky produced by the Glengoyne Distillery near Loch Lomond.

Valued at some £900, the bottle comes in its own presentation case, in the form of a miniature grandfather clock, which was left behind.

The bottle was stolen from the premises of Gordon and MacPhail of Elgin, whisky specialists, and police are investigating the theft.

Given a few more ‘responsible’ budgets, we’ll be noting similar stories about bottles of petrol in future.

March 15, 2008 Posted by | Civilian | , , , | Leave a comment

   

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