DIESEL thefts from Hawksworth Industrial Estate are increasing and Cemex plant manager Keith Vincent is feeling powerless to stop the criminals.

Police officers greeted Keith at the Wedgewood Close site on Monday morning and told him there had been an attempted raid overnight.

Three men, aged 20, 30 and 36, from Lancashire were caught after the police helicopter scoured the area following reports of the break-in at the cement supplier at 11.20pm.

Officers on the ground picked up two of the men before the helicopter pinpointed the third.

The trio, all of whom were questioned at Gablecross police station on Sunday, were scared off the site before they had the chance to steal anything.

Keith, who has worked at the plant for more than 20 years, said the raiders would almost certainly have been after valuable diesel in the tanks of the vehicles on-site.

“Over the years there’s been a lot of diesel theft. There are two lorries based here with owner drivers. There must be at least one theft every week,” he said.

“The lads siphon their fuel off every day and hide it around the plant, but they still find it.

“They try to keep their fuel level as low as they can, but there’s only so much you can do. They were probably here for that.

“That’s all we tend to have stolen. They’ve broken into the site office before and taken things like teabags, but nothing of real value.

“Ten times out of ten they take diesel rather than anything else. It’s quite a common problem on industrial estates.

“The price of diesel is attractive for them. For a tank-full you would be looking at between £150 and £200.”

One of the drivers on site, John Earley, said thieves taking fuel from his HGV on the site had cost him £500 since the New Year.

“In this day and age it’s a lot more common,” said Keith. “ In the last five or six years people have been getting more desperate.”

John said: “It’s because of the recession. If they come in here on a good night they could take away £300 in diesel if they wanted.”

Neither could put their finger on why three men from the north west would travel across the country for their plant.

“The policeman couldn’t offer any real answers,” said Keith. “The scum talk to the other scum, I guess. Word gets around on where to go. Somebody around here must have tipped them off.

A Wiltshire Police spokesman said: “Three men have been arrested on suspicion of burglary after the helicopter was scrambled to assist officers trace the suspects. The men were taken into custody.”