“What can we do to stop these people” is the question being asked as the spate of high-value tack thefts from show centres continues — including one rider who has been targeted for the second time.
A total of 12 saddles were stolen from lorries at Northcote Stud last weekend, which was holding a four-day British Showjumping show from 10-13 February. One of the riders affected was Holly Johnstone, who had two saddles stolen from her at Onley Grounds Equestrian Complex last May. Her two replacement CWD saddles, including one her partner had bought her new as a Christmas present, were taken, along with other equipment, her Samshield hat and her gloves.
Stud event and sport manager Adam Cromarty told H&H the total value of the stolen gear was about £50,000.
“I don’t think anyone is under the illusion that it was someone just passing by, I think it’s an organised criminal group,” he said. “At the moment, it’s all theories and opinions but probably someone who’s part of the sport is involved. They may not be the ones actually using the screwdrivers but I think there’s knowledge being passed on.”
Adam posted on Facebook to inform riders of new security measures the stud is taking, although there was already CCTV throughout the site, indoors, outdoors, in the arenas and in every stable.
He also asked whether competitors would be prepared to pay a small amount for extra night security, and had a positive response.
“I thought it was important to gauge feelings in the show community,” he said. “We don’t want it to feel like a prison camp here but people have to feel secure.”
“It was definitely overnight,” he added. “We’ve got cameras on the main gate, which is really the only way in, and there was nothing spotted on them so it could have been 10pm or 3am.
“Looking at the back fields, there are tyre tracks so the theory at the moment is they gained access through a gap in the hedge, which makes you think again it’s organised; they’ve been on site to do a recce in advance.
“This should be national news and I don’t think police will get anywhere investigating it as local crimes; these people have travelled.”
Adam said the centre is being proactive; he has asked for police presence at the centre’s pony premier show this weekend, and will ask for the same at its forthcoming major events, as well as beefing up night security.
“It’s a bit sad we have to,” he said. “We didn’t really think it would happen to us.
“I don’t think the net is closing in on these people but it’s made and maybe ready to cast and hopefully, if police work together, they’ll correlate information. We’ve given them a list of everyone who was stabled here and if someone in the industry is involved, even if they’re not the one using the screwdriver, they’re involved, and it’s a worse moral crime as they’re part of the community.”
A kick in the teeth
Holly, who owns a livery yard and showjumps as an amateur, told H&H it was a “kick in the teeth” to be targeted again. Her tack locker was securely locked but the thieves used first a screwdriver, then a crowbar to force it open.
“The first time, you think it’s bad luck, what can you do differently, but the second time, it’s heartbreaking,” she said.
Holly, who estimates the total worth of all her stolen tack at about £20,000, also thinks an insider is involved, passing information.
“I think someone’s competing alongside us, having a look to see what tack we’ve got and what lorries we’re in,” she said. “I wasn’t going to post about what happened on Facebook but I did and it reached thousands of people and that’s what we need; these people keep getting away with it and think they can just carry on but it’s got to stop, it has to go somewhere.”
Holly hopes someone involved will slip up, or let something slip, or that someone will pass some information to police.
“What can we do to stop these people?” she asked. “I just want to help someone else; I wouldn’t wish this on anyone. I’d do anything to stop them.
“I’ve got two horses I’ll never part with as they’re my joy and that’s what hurts the most; I showjump because I love it and this takes the enjoyment out of it — but I won’t let them stop me doing what I love.
“These people have no morals and there’s no other word for them but scum, they’re disgusting. Someone has to know something, someone knows where the tack’s going, and if they could just pass on a name to police, even anonymously, that would give them somewhere to start.
“I’d like to think I might get my saddles back, but seeing these people caught would be enough for me.”
A spokesman for Lancashire Police told H&H no arrests have been made but “enquiries are very much ongoing”. Anybody with information is asked to call police on 101, quoting log 0370 of February 12, 2022. Information can also be passed, in confidence, by calling Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.
Both Lincolnshire Police, which is investigating the Arena UK thefts, and Lancashire told H&H they are not working with other forces on the thefts, but a Lincs spokesman said a general force position is that “we always keep an open mind with any investigation, and we will work with our colleagues in other force areas if needed”.
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