A MILKMAN is offering a reward to catch thieves who are systematically stealing pints from doorsteps.

Keith Williams fears he will lose customers unless the thefts, which happened between 6am and 8am, stop.

On the Saturday of Easter weekend about 30 bottles were taken from doorsteps in Ouston, near Chester-le-Street.

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A few weeks before that, 75 cartons were taken from the village school early on a Monday morning and 15 pints also went from nearby homes.

Mr Williams, who runs his business from Burnhope with son Brian Williams and daughter Christine Kell, is now offering a £100 reward for information leading to a conviction.

He said: “There has always been people nicking the odd pint or two here and there all the time I have been in the business.

“But this is something completely different. It is systematic and it must be someone who has a vehicle. No-one could lift all that milk.

“We are trying to make people aware of what is going on. We have told the police we will give a reward of £100 to anyone who gives information that leads to a conviction.

“It is not the value of the milk, it is the value of the customer. If you get someone who is out two or three times over a period of two months they will revert to getting milk from the shop.

“We don’t have that customer and we are not just one or two pints of milk down.”

PC Terry Graham, the beat officer for Ouston, said the value of the milk stolen was small, but the potential impact on the business was bigger.

He urged anyone with information about the thefts to call him on the police non-emergency number 101 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.