Firm appeals for return of equipment

A COMPANY formed to pioneer organic weed control in Britain is appealing for the return of a rare and vital piece of equipment, which it said could be "extremely dangerous" in the wrong hands.

A COMPANY formed to pioneer organic weed control in Britain is appealing for the return of a rare and vital piece of equipment, which it said could be "extremely dangerous" in the wrong hands.

Managers at Phocas UK, based at Ardleigh, near Manningtree, are in despair following the theft of a high-pressure thermal weed killer from a secure lock-up unit on the outskirts of Colchester.

The £28,000 machine, one of only a handful in Europe designed to eradicate the use of pesticides from weed control, was mounted on a four-wheel trailer which was stolen at around 4pm last Wednesday.

Its owners believe a dark blue Citreon Xantia towed the 2.5 tonne stainless steel box, which has the word "Waipuna" marked on its side, to an industrial estate in Lodge Lane, Langham, before being transporting it to the A12 via the Ardleigh Crown interchange during the evening rush hour.


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Company spokesman Tim Goodwin said: "Someone must have seen it. It looks like a big pressure washer but it is not, and requires highly specialised training to operate safely.

"It is not easy to use, and in the wrong hands, or more importantly if tampered with, it could be extremely dangerous."

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Mr Goodwin and Ardleigh strawberry farmer, William Hudson, brought the revolutionary equipment to the UK from New Zealand, where it is built by manufacturers Waipuna.

It uses two powerful boilers and high pressure pumps with special injector assemblies to produce hot water and foam.

This kills weed growth without the need for thousands of litres of "hard-core chemicals" and other damaging substances. It can also remove chewing gum from pavements.

Mr Goodwin said: "It is insured, but losing it will have a debilitating effect on us because it cannot easily be replaced.

"We're trying to pioneer these environmentally-friendly methods and to have something like this happen is terrible for the business.

"There's only about three of these machines in Britain and not many in Europe. We're hoping it's being hidden somewhere nearby because the thieves realise it's so hot."

A spokeswoman for Essex Police said: "All information has been passed on to intelligence officers who are making enquiries."

Anyone with information is asked to contact police at Colchester station on 01206 762212.

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