TWO quick-thinking publicans in west Wiltshire have managed to foil a cooking oil theft after alerting police.

Allen Hill, manager of the Wadworth-owned The Barge Inn, and Andy Scoble, licensee of the Brewery Inn, both in Seend Cleeve, called police after two men in a van came round to collect their used cooking oil.

There has reportedly been a surge in dirty cooking oil thefts sells as it gains value on the ‘black market’ for use in diesel vehicles, particularly after the recent rocketing rise in fuel prices.

Sarah Bradford-Scoble, 49, said: “A member of my staff was on the bar when the two men came up in an unmarked van and said they were ‘here for the oil’.

“They took the oil and left but she was a bit surprised she did not have to sign for it.

“Ten minutes later, Allen, the manager of The Barge Inn, came in and asked if we’d had a cooking oil collection. When she said ‘yes’, he said ‘no’, the oil has been stolen.”

When the two men brazenly walked into his kitchen at The Barge Inn, Mr Hill refused to let the pair take his cooking oil cannisters.

As they were leaving the pub car park, he noted their vehicle registration number and Mr Scoble used it to alert Wiltshire Police.

Officers stopped the men and their van at Junction 17 near Chippenham, just as they were about to disappear along the M4 motorway towards London.

Police escorted them back to Seend Cleeve, where Mrs Bradford-Scoble said they were able to identify their stolen cannisters. “Their van was full of cannisters, all piled in on top of one another.

“Police took their details but were not able to identify where all the other stolen cannisters had come from, so the men were able to leave.”

Mrs Bradford-Scoble urged pub managers and licensees to report thefts to the police immediately, as used cooking oil is valued at around 50p a litre.

“People need to keep on reporting the thefts to the police and be alert to men with vans and high vis jackets coming to collect.”

Wiltshire Police advise people to call 999 if a theft is in progress or report it online if it has already occurred.

Suspects should not be approached, as they may use violence, but people should note their vehicle registration number or take a photograph if possible.