OCTOBER 2, 2009: Gardeners were devastated after thieves stripped their Devon allotment of nearly every piece of unpicked fruit and veg.

Everything from plums and pears to carrots and cabbages vanished overnight in a well-planned operation. The destination of the food, worth hundreds of pounds, is thought to be markets. A local councillor, Chris Bedford, said: “This wasn’t scrumping, it was a commercial operation. “Some may think it’s a piffling issue but this is produce people have been working on all year. “Then some low-lifes come and steal it all. It’s beneath contempt and heartbreaking.” The thieves, armed with spades, struck at Dix’s Field allotment in Brixham. They targeted all 25 plots and left some bare. Allotment holder John Prout did notice one man acting suspiciously before the theft. “But like a fool I didn’t ask for ID,” he said. Police warned people to watch out for anyone selling cheap produce.