CARAVANS worth £40,000 were stolen from a high-security lock-up – with one being traced to a travellers site.

In the latest in a spate of caravan thefts in the borough, thieves struck at the the lock-up on a farm on the Westhoughton-Atherton border on Monday, January 4 at around 7.30pm.

They cut through a padlock securing 6ft high steel gates to get to the parked vehicles.

One of the caravans which was new contained a tracking device which revealed that the vehicle had been taken to the Crompton Lodge Caravan Park in Hall Lane, Moses Gate.

The owner of the farm, John Sharples, tracked the caravan to the site and called the police.

Officers arrived at around 1am then entered the site with police dogs and retrieved the caravan.

Leigh Journal: A stolen caravan worth £20k was tracked down to the Moses Gate Traveller Site

Mr Sharples fears the second caravan, which did not contain a tracking device, was also taken to the site.

Significant damage was caused to both the interior and the exterior of the caravan as thieves had tried to locate any tracking devices inside.

Mr Sharples said: “I have got security lights, CCTV cameras and a steel fence.

“One of the caravans was brand new and worth £22,000. The tracker showed us that it had been taken to the traveller site.

“I went down with a family member to try and get it, we had to call the police who eventually turned up around 1am.

“Another caravan was also stolen, worth around £20,000 as well, and I’m sure it was at the site, but I wasn’t allowed to go and look for it.

“This caravan was badly damaged, they’d ripped everything out trying to look for the tracker. It was completely ransacked. There’s damage on the outside too.

“The police seemed very reluctant to go in, they turned up with several cars, vans and police dogs. They wanted to come back in the morning.

“We insisted that they retrieved it last night as we could see exactly where it was.”

Leigh Journal: A stolen caravan worth £20k was tracked down to the Moses Gate Traveller Site

The caravan owner David Doyle said: “The caravan is not even two months old, we had been planning on using it during our retirement.

“It broke my heart when I saw the caravan. All the cupboards had been ripped open, the fridge, microwave, TV aerial was all damaged.

“The most annoying thing was that I could see from the tracker it was at the site, and while we were waiting for the police to act we knew it was being torn apart.

“They seemed very reluctant to enter the site, even the dog handler was afraid that they would have dogs larger than his inside.

“It doesn’t make any sense as what can they do with the damaged caravan? They can’t sell it on.

“They had sawn through the wheel lock and the hitch lock. They should be working in Formula 1 because they nicked that caravan quicker than Lewis Hamilton’s team.

“I just feel disillusioned by the police, I understand they have to perform risk assessments but during that time my caravan was being damaged.”

There have been reports of other caravans being stolen with another owner saying they had traced theirs to the site last month.

Leigh Journal: A stolen caravan worth £20k was tracked down to the Moses Gate Traveller Site

Sergeant Andy Devonshire said: “We received reports of two caravans being stolen from a farm, of which one of them was located and recovered.

“As ever, our officers responded as quickly as they could while assessing the threat, harm, and risk. Other incidents were also were being reported that evening, many of them requiring an immediate to prompt response.

“On this occasion, it was necessary for specialist officers to be in attendance at the site to ensure the safety of our attending officers and members of the public. This required a thoughtful and tactful approach which by its nature cannot be rushed.

“We regularly visit and engage with those present at the site and work closely with the local authority in doing so, while building and maintaining relationships with the communities that we serve.

“Our enquiries into this incident are ongoing and we are keen to hold those responsible for these appalling thefts to account and face justice.”