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Suspected cable theft knocks out phone lines for hundreds in Hampstead and Highgate

PUBLISHED: 18:53 27 February 2014 | UPDATED: 18:53 27 February 2014

BT says engineers were working round-the-clock to repair damage done by suspected thieves. Picture: Nick Ansell

BT says engineers were working round-the-clock to repair damage done by suspected thieves. Picture: Nick Ansell

PA Wire/Press Association Images

Phone lines across Hampstead and Highgate have been hit by days of outage after a suspected major theft of copper phone cables hit BT’s lines.

Residents have reported not being able to phone certain numbers or receive any calls since Saturday, with the fault thought to be affecting much of north London.

With problems continuing for days, it was discovered the outage was caused by what is thought to have been a major attempt by thieves to steal valuable copper cabling in Ealing.

Engineers working round-the-clock to get the “malicious damage” fixed revealed almost a dozen cables had been cut in the process.

Elaine Mackover, of Alvanley Gardens, West Hampstead, noticed problems with her phone on Saturday.

“People aren’t even aware they have a problem with their phone because they can dial out,” she said.

“But they’re not able to receive calls.

“We were eventually told by a friend that they couldn’t call us and have had to revert to using mobile phones.

“There seems to be a particular problem with the ‘328’ codes.”

The theft of valuable metals like copper has become so rife in recent years BT has pledged to pay a £1,000 reward for anyone providing information that leads to an arrest.

People can call anonymously and free on 0800 555 111.

The firm has also implemented special security measures to combat cable theft, including technology that alerts police within minutes of cables being cut.

Alarmed cables and other physical network security measures are also playing their part.

A spokesman from BT Openreach said: “Openreach engineers have worked around the clock in 12 hour shifts removing damaged cables, clearing underground ducts and completing manual digs to repair collapsed ducts.

“The vast majority of service has now been restored.

“Openreach engineers will continue to work round the clock and give this top priority until all service has been restored.

“We apologise for any inconvenience caused by this criminal act.

“We would appeal for people to be vigilant and report any suspicious behaviour in or around street cabinets or manhole covers immediately.”

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