Scrapyard raid in metal theft probe

POLICE targeting the growing trade in stolen metal yesterday mounted the biggest operation of its kind in which more than 100 officers raided a Suffolk village scrap yard.

Laurence Cawley

POLICE targeting the growing trade in stolen metal yesterday mounted the biggest operation of its kind in which more than 100 officers raided a Suffolk village scrap yard.

Four people were arrested on suspicion of handling stolen goods and money laundering during the raid at the Ponderosa yard in Bridge End Road, Red Lodge, near Mildenhall.

Supported by the police helicopter, officers entered the scrap compound shortly before 9am yesterday. They also raided a house within the scrap metal yard.

Yesterday afternoon, forensics officers started to sift through evidence at the yard, which holds hundreds of disused cars, vans and other metal objects. Police work at the site is expected to last two days.

The police were joined by people from the Department of Work and Pensions, the Environment Agency, the DVLA, HM Revenue and Customs, Suffolk trading standards, British Transport Police, Network Rail and the UK Border Agency.

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It is understood Network Rail and transport police were present to sift through the piles of metal to try and identify track-related metals.

Detectives at the scene said the operation was the outcome of months of intelligence gathering.

Insp Kim Warner, of Suffolk police, said: “In the last six months in Forest Heath alone, there has been £60,000 of scrap metal theft. It is the first operation of this type and magnitude I have been involved in.

“We've been developing intelligence and we've been acting on that information. The best means by which we get information is the community.”

Police officers from neighbouring forces including Essex, Norfolk and Cambridgeshire were also involved in the raid.

Insp Warner said mounting an operation with the help of all of the different organisations involved had been a major feat, but was vital in making sure no evidence was missed.

“They are looking at this particular site from their own particular area of expertise. Things we might miss, they don't - they've been very helpful in this operation.”

Det Insp Jeff Yaxley, lead investigating officer, said: “There were a lot of cars on site as well as containers and lorries. This is not a simple operation. To do this takes a lot of planning and resources.

“Suffolk police takes metal theft very seriously.”

Det Insp Yaxley said he hoped the operation would serve a strong message to other yards.

Police said last night that two men - a 33-year-old man from Bury and a 38-year-old man from Red Lodge - had been arrested for money laundering and handling stolen goods. They were still being questioned last night.

Two other men - a 30-year-old of no fixed address and a 21-year-old from Bury- were arrested for money laundering and given bail to return to Bury Police Station on November 20.

A 22-year-old man from Cambridgeshire was arrested near the site during the day for driving without a licence. He was released on police bail to return to Bury St Edmunds police station on November 18.

A 38-year-old man from Newmarket was reported for driving without a licence. The case will be passed to the criminal justice unit to decide how to proceed.

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