A HOUSEHOLDER in a local village who tricked oil thieves by filling his home heating tank with water was warned not to do it again in a "nasty, threatening" letter left by the raiders.
By Tamara O'Connell
The man from Stonetown, just outside Dundalk, had been targeted by the thieves twice before and they had succeeded in making away with two full tanks of home heating oil.
The frustrated homeowner decided to take action and filled his tank with water in a bid to teach the thieves a lesson.
According to a source, the thieves had partially filled their tank with the water when they realised their mistake.
Angered by discovery, the men wrote a "nasty letter" and threatened the man that he would be punished if he tried to outfox them again.
Stonetown has been targeted by oil thieves in recent weeks, including Stonetown Church, which has been hit twice by the callous thieves.
The first raid took place six weeks ago and the second raid was carried out just ten days ago. According to a spokesperson for the Church, the thieves stole a half tank of oil each time.
"We have been putting in just small amounts of oil so that if we are targeted again, they won't get away with too much. It's all we can do but it's easier to manage it that way," he said.
"Some people have to put metal or cement blocks around the tank. We have been talking about doing the same but we will have to wait until the summer time when the weather improves."
With domestic oil prices at an all-time high, many of Louth's rural homes are at risk from opportunistic oil thieves.
Victims of oil theft are often left to wake up to a cold, unheated house - understandably expecting their heating system to have broken down.
Only on further investigation do they discover that their heating fuel has been drained away in its entirety. On other occasions, thieves take only a small amount from tanks in order that the victim may never realise the loss.
If you have an oil tank, try to protect your heating oil by planting shrubs or install fences to hide your tank from view.
This is especially important if you live close to the road - although heating oil theft has also been known to occur at secluded properties with long drives.
Remember to check your tank's oil levels on a regular basis. Where possible, install security lighting that covers your tank and the immediate surrounding area.
If your tank is openly accessible to all, consider re-siting it to an area or building where it is better protected. If your tank is located in an outbuilding, ensure it is kept locked and secured at all times.
In the meantime, the Stonetown community is being urged to be vigilant. Note down any suspicious vehicles' registration numbers and report any suspicious behaviour to the Gardai.
l A man checks his home heating oil tank