Scrap metal thieves hoping to lift a copper wire bonanza ended up disconnecting over 25o phones. They struck in a quiet rural area around the Ardglass end of the Crewe Road around 11pm on Tuesday evening.
One local resident on the Crewe Road explained: “I was looking at some sites on the Internet when it just cut off. I did not think for one minute that something was wrong with the line. Altogether I lost my phone line and Internet connection for three days.
“This must have been a very trying time for those who are isolated such as the ill, elderly or disabled. I was shocked to hear of the outcome that the copper wire thieves have had. It really is an audacious crime.
“I thought that the police were clamping down on scrap metal thieves, but it is a difficult task to watch every country road. I hope this is not the beginning of a new kind of theft. The heartless thieves seem to have been oblivious of the huge number of homes that the road lines serviced.”
It is understood that five holes were dug along the roadside several feet deep in order to extract the heavy grade copper wire. The delay in the repair was due to the need to order spare parts.
South Down MP Margaret Ritchie (SDLP) added: “On hearing about this incident, I made representations to BT to request the immediate and full restoration of their systems in the Ballywooden, Crew and Bishopscourt Roads area of Downpatrick.
“Unfortunately a number of rural residents had no landline telephone lines or Broadband in use due to damage to the underground cables. Residents are now delighted at the restoration of these services.
“I asked BT to carry out immediate repair work so that residents affected can be assured of a timely restoration of services. I hope the police fully investigate this incident and if anyone witnessed suspicious activity in the area they should contact the police immediately on 101.”
Residents in the area may now be considering the possibility of setting up a Neighbourhood Watch scheme in order to keep on top of rural crime and the metal thieves.