THIEVES risked death by cutting power lines supplying 11,000 volts of electricity to homes and businesses in Sheffield.
The crooks severed the earth cables on two supply poles crossing Beighton Marsh, in the Shirebrook Valley Nature Reserve.
A local walker who discovered the thefts said the copper wires had been stolen for their scrap metal value – and that their actions posed a danger to wildlife enthusiasts who visit the area.
The walker, who declined to be named, said he reported the incident straight away to the electricity supplier, Northern Powergrid, which sent engineers out to replace the first cable.
“When I got the electrical engineers down, I took them to see the poles and walked closely towards them,” he said.
“They stopped me and said I shouldn’t go too close because they had snipped the earth cables.
“Without these, the electricity could short to me, being the nearest object. It’s obviously dangerous to be in that position.
“The engineer who replaced the cables said it was absolutely rife.”
He said he spotted the second theft about a week later on a supply pole beside a public footpath.
The walker said: “I thought it was a potentially dangerous situation, it’s a hazard to be so close.
“It’s 11,000 volts, which you do not play with. I was very lucky not to find a body.”
The walker reported it again to Northern Powergrid.
He said: “The lines have been stolen purely for the copper.
“Copper is something like £3,500 for scrap at the moment.
“It’s ridiculous. You really don’t get a second chance with 11,000 volts.”
A spokesman for Northern Powergrid said the company was looking into the issue but was unable to provide a fuller comment.
Tackling the illegal scrap trade is a priority for South Yorkshire Police. Officers carried out operations across the county in March.
They were targeting people transporting and selling stolen metal. Chief Superintendent Bill Hotchkiss, force lead officer for metal theft, said: “Those who steal cable are not only risking a prison sentence, they are risking their lives.”
n Police say that anyone with information about individuals involved in metal theft or dealing in stolen scrap should call 101, or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.