THOUSANDS of litres of diesel have been stolen from lorries in Brentwood and Chelmsford in the last fortnight.

A total of eight vehicles, six parked up in lay-bys along the A12 between Brook Street and Shenfield and another two stationed on the A414 near Chelmsford, have been targeted by crooks.

Amounts varying between 200 to 1,000 litres was siphoned from each truck while the drivers, mainly from Eastern Europe, were taking their required rest breaks overnight.

Extra patrols are being carried out along the A12 by Essex Police with officers going along the road during the night to a watch out for the thieves.

DI Rob Huddleston, who is investigating the thefts, said: “In all the incidents drivers were asleep and were unaware that thieves were removing their fuel.

“In some cases where smaller amounts of diesel were taken the thefts were not discovered until several hours later.

"In the latest theft in the early hours of Wednesday June 12 a number of people were disturbed and fled before police arrived. But they left behind discarded plastic tanks which will be forensically examined.

“We believe that several different teams of thieves are involved in these crimes. We are warning all lorry drivers to be on their guard and to call police if they have any suspicions about small vans parked near HGVs in lay-bys at night.”

Anyone with information about the thefts or the sale of diesel in suspicious circumstances is urged to contact DI Huddleston or his team at Loughton police station on 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

Drivers using the A12 at night are also being asked to call 999 if they spot any suspects using tubing and cans near parked lorries.