PROLIFIC milk snatchers are leaving a sour taste in the mouth of residents across one North-East town.

Police are hunting for the elusive milk thieves ruining the breakfasts of numerous householders in the Darlington area.

The Northern Echo understands hundreds of pints of milk have been swiped from doorsteps and both milkmen and their customers have hit out at the culprits after a number of incidents were reported to the police in recent weeks.

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Since the end of January, police logged 20 complaints relating to stolen milk in the Hurworth, Cockerton and Middleton St George areas of the borough.

Milkman Andy Bradley said the true figure was likely to be much higher, given that many people would not think to report the loss of their milk to police.

Mr Bradley, a milkman since 1983, said he was aware of the problem and had only yesterday (Thursday, March 10) received a complaint from a customer who had had three pints of milk snatched from the doorstep.

He said the thieves were causing a financial problem for milkmen who had to compensate their customers, as well as issues for those expecting their deliveries.

They are also causing problems for elderly customers, many of whom are unable to leave their homes and rely on deliveries to get fresh milk.

Mr Bradley said he often sees suspicious characters during his early morning rounds.

He added: “I’ve been a milkman for a long time and thought this kind of thing had quietened down but in the last two months it’s started up again.

“We don’t know who’s doing it but I often see likely lads on my rounds, on their bikes at 2 or 3am with carrier bags.

“These days if it’s not bolted down, someone will take it.

"My customers aren't getting their fresh milk in glass bottles for their breakfast and I have to replace it or I'll lose my customers."

One Darlington woman said her milk was being stolen regularly.

Sam Linfoot said: “For weeks, me and other members of my family living nearby have had their delivered milk stolen.

“It’s not a great feeling to wake up and know someone’s been up your drive in the early hours and stolen your milk.

“People only see it as a pint of milk but it all adds up and must be dreadful for those who are feeling the cost of such thefts in their back pocket.”

Anyone with information about the thefts should contact Darlington Police on non-emergency number 101.