AUDACIOUS scrap metal thieves left a note saying “you’ve been done” after causing thousands of pounds of damage to a family-run business.

Nightlayer Leek Company, based in Dean Drove, Chatteris, was forced to temporarily lay-off 40 staff and left with a repair bill of up to £30,000 after thieves stripped metal from a leek harvesting rig.

Trevor Edgley, who founded the company 28 years ago with his father Les, has called for action on Fenland's scrap metal theft problem.

He said it was the second time that their harvesting equipment had been attacked and that the company had even been forced to guard the irrigation pumps to prevent fuel theft.

Mr Edgley said: "I am left thinking why my business should bother to repair all the damage, why should I pay my increased insurance when I know this will happen again?

"They took the stainless steel, the metal covering of the engine and even the electrical wire in between the lights. It would have taken them hours. They even left a written note saying 'you've been done'.

"Currently the countryside is lawless and it is getting worse."

Mr Edgley said the thieves had used quad bikes to access the fields on the evening of February 1 before removing the metal from the 14-tonne rig.

The damage forced the company to import eight articulated lorry loads of leeks to fulfil its orders.

Mr Edgley said: "Why do we not just stop the scrapyards dealing in cash? I know there is a scrap act and it will have to be changed by Parliament, just get on with it.

"If the scrap income had to be paid into a bank account or charged to a debit card, surely this would provide the tractability required to convict the thefts?"

A Cambridgeshire police spokesman said: "We take all reports of metal theft very seriously and an operation, called Gandalf, has been launched by the force that is specifically targeting metal theft and rural crime.

"We are investigating this crime and inquiries are ongoing. We have been encouraged by the response we've had from members of the public and would urge them to continue reporting anything they think might be significant.

"Anyone with information, no matter how insignificant they believe it might be, should contact police on 101."

Mr Edgley thanked Manea company FJS Services who worked through snowy conditions to repair the rig.