Over £30,000 worth of electricity was stolen in an extremely dangerous case of meter tampering in a supermarket in Boston, Lincolnshire.
The criminals stole the electricity by bypassing an electricity meter which was labelled as a “danger to life” and was immediately disconnected following its discovery.
Deception and intimidation
The meter was found hidden behind a tower of boxes and, ironically, a health and safety poster. The fact that the meter was disguised in the first place was a tell-tale sign of wrongdoing – and was a clear sign to investigation officers that there was more to look into.
Engineers arranged two surprise visits to get to the bottom of it. One of the visits was unexpectedly cut short when the supermarket staff would not allow them access. On a third, pre-arranged visit, broken seals were found on the transformer chamber.
The chief constable wrote: “The engineer suspected that the customer had bridged the metal arms coming out of the current transformer which would give free electricity and the zero readings recorded.”
The equipment was re-sealed, but not long after, signs of continued theft appeared. Staff intimidated engineers when they arrived to investigate again – only to find that the seals had been broken again.
Passing the blame
In an attempt to avoid taking responsibility for the tampering, the store manager blamed the electrician for the dodgy work being done.
The staff even went so far to explain the low energy usage at the site by saying that “the fridges are only switched on for half a day and switched off at night.” The claims were investigated by environmental health over concerns for the safety of perishable foods being kept in the fridges.
A danger to life
The supermarket has already paid £15,000 towards the bill, and a weekly payment plan has been agreed to repay the rest. The police are also campaigning to have the shop’s licence removed in an attempt to prevent them from trying to tamper again.
It’s worryingly common to see businesses try to cut corners to save money on their bills. But it’s rare to see a case as severe as in this example – being labelled a “danger to life” is a serious matter.
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