POLICE are hunting thieves behind a bizarre late-night raid which saw them steal two tractors and go on a wrecking spree through a series of fences and gates to make their getaway.
The gang targeted the Houston Farm Riding School in Uphall, West Lothian, where they first made off with an £8500 New Holland tractor.
As they raced it across a neighbouring farm to escape, they ended up careering into a 20ft ditch a mile away with the tractor’s front prongs left sticking into the ground.
Undeterred, they returned to the riding school and stole a 40-year-old Ford 3000 tractor and trailer, smashing through more wood and wire fencing to escape on to the road.
The school’s owners said that 230 metres of fencing and three gates had been destroyed in all during the rampage, which took place between 11pm on Sunday and 6am on Monday. Staff are having to keep the 50 horses at the facility indoors until thousands of pounds of repairs are carried out.
Organised gangs of thieves have targeted agricultural and industrial machinery across West Lothian in recent years, with several tractors among the property stolen.
Elizabeth Comrie, who owns the riding school, said: “We were up early on Monday to tend to the horses when one of our neighbours came and said fences on their farm had been broken down.
“We discovered that our New Holland tractor had disappeared. It had been driven in the direction of Uphall golf course and through every fence. They had aimed for a gap in a hedge but they hadn’t realised there was a deep, 20ft, ditch on the other side. The tractor went straight in and its prongs went into the ground. It was stuck so they just left it. They went back and took the Ford tractor instead.
“They went round the back of the indoor school this time and mowed down more fences and a gate to go on to a neighbouring field.
“They turned at the ditch then went through another fence and on to a small road between the A899 and A89.”
The stolen vintage Ford tractor, a blue Q-reg valued at £1800, was used by staff to flatten the arena surfaces.
Mrs Comrie added: “It’s sad to lose the tractor because we’ve had it for such a long time and there’s not many of those kind left now.
A police spokeswoman said: “This vintage tractor is fairly distinctive so we would appeal for anyone who may have seen it on the roads since Sunday to contact us.