Esso fuel pipeline thefts focus of wider police investigation

A police car and officer outside an industrial unit in Hampshire where a large quantity of stolen fuel was found
Image caption Last month, police discovered 30,000 litres of stolen diesel at an industrial storage unit near Romsey

Two cases of theft from an underground fuel pipeline are part of a much wider police investigation, it has emerged.

Esso's Midline Pipeline, which carries fuel from Southampton to Birmingham, has twice been tampered with recently, in parts of Hampshire and Wiltshire.

There have been other breaches of fuel lines in the south of England, according to Hampshire Police.

Its detectives are working with West Mercia, Gloucestershire and Wiltshire police forces and fuel companies.

A major fuel leak was reported at the beginning of April, in Manton, Wiltshire.

Esso said the leak had occurred following an attempt by thieves to tap the buried pipeline and environmental specialists were working to monitor any impact and take appropriate further action.

Up to 150,000 litres of fuel was reported to have seeped out.

'Strengthen security'

Then, on 17 April, a tapping device was found on the pipeline 37 miles away (59km) at East Wellow, Hampshire, after police discovered 30,000 litres of stolen diesel in tanks at a nearby industrial storage unit.

Hampshire Police said it believed the tanks were being filled from a "sophisticated system" which had tapped into the line.

Two men, aged 32 and 34, from Salisbury in Wiltshire were arrested and remain on police bail on suspicion of conspiracy to steal fuel.

Esso said the recent incidents had caused it to "strengthen" its security and monitoring procedures.

"Our pipeline network has been in place for decades and tapping incidents are rare," said a spokesperson.

"We have security and detection measures in place at all company facilities, including our petroleum product pipelines, and we work closely with the police to detect and close down illegal activity relating to our assets."

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