Copper wire thieves black out telephone lines and internet in Highgate for an entire week

A police officer from the Metals Task Force examines recovered copper elsewhere in London

A police officer from the Metals Task Force examines recovered copper elsewhere in London - Credit: Archant

Copper thieves left more than 1,000 homes and shops in Highgate without telephone lines or an internet connection for almost a week.

Businesses and residents in and around Highgate Hill were suddenly left without internet and landlines at around 3pm last Thursday.

At first BT was unable to offer any answers for the service lapse, but it was later revealed that robbers had cut through underground copper wiring in an attempted theft that the company described as “malicious”.

Customers were told lines would be restored “as quickly as possible”, as residents moved into their sixth day without a working landline.

Copper is valuable on the precious metal market in London, making it an attractive commodity for thieves, who sell it on the black market.

But cutting electrical lines does come at a cost, leaving some of the perpetrators badly burned.

BT say more than 200 people have been arrested for stealing cables from the company in the past year after forensically coded invisible paint that “tags” metal thieves was introduced.

Most Read

Estate agents Taylor Gibbs, in Highgate High Street, was one of the dozens of businesses affected. Director Glenn Taylor said the company had to pay for an emergency internet provider as business would have been damaged.

He said: “We rely heavily on the internet so we had to find an interim solution so that we could somehow get email.

“We’re getting such mixed messages from BT. You speak to someone at the start of the day and they say, ‘It will be OK by the end of the day’. But then you speak to someone else and they tell us it won’t be ready until the end of the week.”

A spokesman for BT said: “We have suffered malicious cuts to underground cabling in an apparent attempted theft of cable which has been reported to the police.

“This has been affecting many hundreds of people. We have restored some services and are doing all we can to get everyone restored as quickly as possible.”

Some services had been restored by yesterday morning.

In January last year, cemeteries in Camden increased dog patrols to thwart thieves on the prowl for bronze, copper and brass fittings on gravestones.

In 2011, allotments in Muswell Hill were plundered for every piece of scrap metal with pots, kettles and pans stolen from 82 sheds.