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'Don't tackle thieves'

Plant hire chiefs warn contractors not to 'have a go'after woman dies trying to stop flat bed lorry theft

PLANT theft experts are warning company owners not to tackle thieves directly following the tragic death of a have-a-goheroine in Middlesex last week.

Cherita Gates, 53, was crushed to death trying to prevent the theft of a 26-tonne flat bed lorry loaded with two mechanical diggers.

Ms Gates was trying to shut a barrier to lock in the thieves as they tried to get away from Fox's Plant Hire's yard next to her farmhouse in Northolt.

Construction Plant-hire Association safety and training manager Haydn Steele said: 'This tragedy highlights how ruthless plant thieves can be.

'Our advice would be not to try and stop thieves directly.The safest thing to do is just let them drive off with the kit and remember as many details as possible.

'Speed is of the essence, so the police should be alerted straight away and given information such as the registration number of the vehicle, its colour and model and what direction it is heading.

'Using the telephone becomes the best chance of getting your kit back.'

Mr Steele said that most equipment was stolen to order.

He said: 'You do get some opportunist thieves but nine times out of 10 it is stolen to order and is taken out of the country within hours.

'That is why it is vital to let the police know as soon as possible.There is only a small window of opportunity to catch these people and that is when they are travelling away from the scene of the crime.

'They are naturally going to be quite conspicuous and that is the best chance for the police to get them.

'After that the kit is broken up or shipped out of the country to Ireland, the Middle East, Africa or the Balkans.'

Police are still hunting the killers of Ms Gates. A spokesman said on Tuesday that there had been no major developments in the case and fresh appeals would be put out later this week.