A THIEF could be on the runs after picking up more than they bargained for whilst ransacking allotments in County Durham.

The careless criminal probably thought they had struck it lucky when they chanced upon a bottle of rum in a greenhouse at The Pollards Allotments, in Bishop Auckland.

But gardeners hope the smell of revenge will be far from sweet as the rum was mixed with quarter of a litre of lactulose - a laxative which if consumed could cause diarrhoea and stomach cramping.

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Bob Latcham, a committee member at the site, said: “It was made up for someone who is poorly, if the person who stole it drank it I hope they’ve been stuck on the toilet ever since.

“Maybe they’ve left a trail behind them for police to follow so they can find out who is to blame.”

Fellow committee member Danny Simpson added: “I hope they’ve ran out of toilet roll.”

The bottle was taken when one or more people managed to get through a perimeter fence to trespass onto the Etherley Lane site overnight on Tuesday, July 12 into Wednesday, July 13.

They then smashed their way into 14 sheds and greenhouses, leaving a trail of destruction in their wake and taking items including a red Stihl chainsaw with an 18inch blade, petrol and small garden tools.

Tuesday night’s raid was the latest in a series of thefts and acts of vandalism at the site which has become soul destroying to allotment holders.

Mr Latcham said: “The state of the place was unbelievable, these midnight crawlers come in here and bash the place up without any thought for us.

“It has happened so many times now people are fed up.

“We have a lovely site here, The Pollards Allotments are known for being a friendly place.

“We have people from all walks of life including pensioners, doctors, solicitors and nurses who all get on well and put in a lot of hours looking after the gardens.

“But it is upsetting and disheartening when we turn up to discover broken glass, smashed locks and tools taken.

“The place means so much to a lot of people, it is not just about gardening but friendship and somewhere nice to go.

“But we’ve lost members because they’ve just got sick of this happening, they cannot keep replacing stolen items and fixing it up.

“The police have done an excellent job, getting finger prints, so we hope they get a result.

“We hope to improve security at the site too.”

Police have appealed for information about the incident and urged offenders not to consume the rum, if they have not already done so or disposed of it.

Anyone who witnessed suspicious activity in the Etherley Lane area around the time of the break-in or who has been offered the chainsaw for sale is asked to contact Durham police on 101. They should quote reference DHM-13072016-0078.