Thieves vandalise allotments in Barking and Dagenham

Allotment holders have been left devastated after thugs stole their lawnmowers and ravaged their crops.

They smashed a metal gate at Barking Park, broke into their hut and took mowers, lawn strimmers and a digger worth hundreds of pounds.

Meanwhile, vandals uprooted and kicked cabbages “like footballs” during three night-time raids at the Becontree Heath allotments in Fambridge Road, Dagenham.

Allotment-holders are said to be so devastated they are giving up their plots.

Becontree Heath chairman Dennis Riley, 80, said: “A third of the site has been attacked.

“First of all they dug up rows of potatoes and cabbages for eating, but this latest stage is pure vandalism. They’re just smashing vegetables.”

Police pledged to step up patrols after entire crops were stolen from Becontree Heath this summer.

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But vandals returned to the 100-plot site between September 12 and 14.

Mr Riley said: “We had three nights of vandalism. They were pulling up cabbages and kicking them around like footballs.

“It’s breaking people’s hearts. I think quite a few plot-holders have given it up.”

The 90-plot site at Barking Park in South Park Drive was also hit in an audacious break-in on September 7.

Thieves damaged the lock to the main gate and tried to rip the roof off the trading hut before breaking into its toilet and smashing an interior wall to get inside the building.

They also vandalised storage boxes to try to find expensive equipment and have uprooted vegetables.

Allotment holder Bob Havers, 80, lost a strimmer and a mower worth hundreds of pounds.

He said: “They’re just thugs.”

Fellow gardener Edward Rix, 75, said: “They pulled my carrots up – I don’t know why they did that.”

Charlie Nash, 66, added: “It’s not going to make them millionaires.”

Dagenham MP Jon Cruddas met plot-holders at Becontree Heath on Saturday and police are investigating the break-ins.

He said: “I know that many people across the borough are very much involved in the various allotment sites.

“On Saturday I went up to the Becontree Heath allotments to discuss recent problems they have been experiencing.

“There has been a lot of damage to the perimeter fencing, vandalism and theft of food.

“It is a wonderful facility built on the hard work and dedication of the membership.

“I agreed to go and talk to the police and local authority about better security and protection in the area and also find out if other allotment sites across the borough have been experiencing similar increased problems over the last couple of weeks.

“If they have could they please contact my office on 020 8984 7854 so we can get a fuller picture in order to protect the borough allotments.”