Loughgall farmer solves tractor theft mystery
Angry farmers in County Armagh are calling for more police resources after a farmer turned detective to recover two stolen tractors.
Three tractors were taken from farms in the Loughgall area over a four-day period earlier this week.
One was crashed and abandoned, but the farmer recovered the other two.
Frustrated by an apparent lack of success for the police, he examined CCTV, called at houses, asked questions and pieced together clues.
Within days he was at a disused farm near the village of Belleeks in South Armagh. It was there that he recovered his tractor and that of a neighbour.
After a brief struggle at the scene, he also delivered a suspect to the police station. The 24-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of theft, possession of a weapon and assault.
He was released on bail along with a second man who was arrested later.
A local assembly member, who knows the farmer well, said police resources were not up to the job.
William Irwin said it was not acceptable that three tractors could be stolen from the same area over a four-day period and driven away for 25 miles without any interference.
In rural Armagh, tractors are a common sight, but with a price tag often topping £60,000 they have also become a common target for criminal gangs.
In a statement, the police said: "While we are pleased that two tractors have been recovered and that arrests have been made, we do not want anyone to put themselves at risk of harm."
They insisted they had already deployed extra resources to tackle rural crime.
Mr Irwin said farmers felt they had no choice but to act.
"I fully understand that, the farmers themselves understand that but they feel they have no other option," he said.
"They've said to me that they would not have got their tractors returned if they hadn't acted themselves. Clearly that's the job of the police.
"There's something wrong when the police can't do that job and farmers themselves have to trace and find their own tractors."