Four men have grabbed £20,000 worth of equipment from a golf course in the North East - before escaping across the fairway in a stolen groundsman’s vehicle.
Staff at Houghton-Le-Spring Golf Club, near Sunderland, came in on Sunday morning to find the greenkeeper’s hut had been slashed open with a stihl saw. They also found tyre tracks leading out through a hole in the fence.
The six-wheeled Gator utility vehicle had been loaded with loot and driven through a hedge before tearing past a pub in the town, through a nearby field, and then away.
Club secretary Dave Freeman said: “The bar staff left the premises after locking the gates at 11.40pm.
“At 11.43pm on the cameras we’ve got two gentlemen who come round the back of the greenkeeper’s hut, and two more dropped off in a car. They used a stihl saw to slice straight up the middle of the roller shutters. They cut them in half and then managed to get in.”
Once inside, the thieves rolled up the shutter and ransacked the shed, loading 10 strimmers, three leaf blowers and a set of golf clubs into the back of the £15,000 all-terrain diesel vehicle.
Their entry had tripped a silent alarm, but a fault in the system meant the police were never called and the siren did not sound for 10 minutes.
When it did the crooks panicked and took off in the Gator, careering down the golf course’s first fairway and bursting out through the hedge at the north-west corner of the course.
Mr Freeman said: “I couldn’t believe it.
“With the alarms and that being on, we didn’t think anyone would be able to get in. They were in for exactly 10 minutes and that normally gives the police enough time to get here.”
After crashing on to the main road in the town, the thieves raced past the Copt Hill pub and down into the fields behind it before slipping round a bank of allotments and on to Market Place.
Police are now checking CCTV along the route and have urged people in the area to keep their eyes peeled for the distinctive green-and-yellow vehicle.
Amanda Peacock, who works on the club shop, said: “I’ve absolutely no idea why they stole the Gator - it baffles the lot of us.
“The only reason we can possibly think of is that it was done to order. Other than that, what kind of use somebody could find for it is beyond me.
“It’s not suitable for the main road because it’s got no lights, no roof, no seatbelts, nothing like that. It’s not even licensed to go on the road.”
Mr Freeman said: “It isn’t really a strange incident. With all these different golf clubs getting broken into across the country, it’s a fact of life – all you can do is to protect your business as best as you can.
“With the likes of ours, there’s nobody who lives on site, and they just look at us as a soft option.”