AN elderly couple struggling with cancer have become the latest victims of metal thieves when the theft of telephone cables prevented them calling for help.

The disappearance of 200 metres of copper telephone cable from Exelby, in North Yorkshire, nearly had devastating consequences for Jane Croshaw and her husband, Brian.

Mr Croshaw has terminal cancer and in the early hours of yesterday he needed urgent medical attention.

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But the theft of underground telephone wires 24 hours earlier had left their home village of Burneston, near Bedale, with no landline telephone.

Mrs Croshaw had a small amount of money on her mobile phone which lasted long enough to allow her to make an emergency call to her doctor’s surgery and then inform a duty nurse about her husband’s rapidly declining state.

She was advised her to take him to the Friarage hospital, in Northallerton, at 6.30am yesterday.

Mrs Croshaw cares for her husband since his diagnosis with terminal bone cancer.

She said: “My husband became very poorly early in the morning. He was in agony.

“It’s unbelievable that somebody can take some cabling and leave a whole village without a telephone line.

“It’s been very stressful time for us and this problem with the phones has just added to it.”

It is believed BT engineers had been working in the area and some time during Monday night and Tuesday morning, thieves stole the underground cables from the site.

􀁧 A separate cable theft at Lower Middleton, a hamlet near Darlington, has left residents without a phone line for 12 days.

Thieves stole BT copper cable from under a manhole cover in nearby Middleton One Row on Friday, March 30.

Nicola Gardner, 55, said: “Everybody is furious here.

“There is a joiner across the road who tells me he has lost business and it has been difficult for my partner Michael, who is a dance teacher, to talk to his clients.

“I feel let down by BT.”

Twelve properties in Lower Middleton, as well as a number of farms, have been affected.

BT says the theft of its cable is such a problem it has now formed its own metal theft task force.

The telecommunications company also launched a new alarm system this year which alerts police within minutes of a cable being cut anywhere in the UK.

Luke Beeson, BT security general manager, said: “Stealing telecommunications cable requires some degree of organisation, planning, equipment and resources.

“Offenders cover the whole spectrum of criminality from opportunist thieves stealing small amounts through to organised criminal gangs with access to more resources and equipment causing major widespread disruption to our customers.”

A crackdown on the trade in stolen metal in the North- East and North Yorkshire was launched earlier this month.

North Yorkshire Police confirmed they are investigating a theft of copper cabling from Exelby after it was reported to them by BT engineers A spokesman for BT said: “Attacks on BT’s network generate tens of thousands of faults each year, causing huge frustration to the public.”