Copper cable thieves smashed TV and broadband connections serving 2.5 million homes in Greater Manchester but left empty-handed.
Thieves forced open a manhole in Oldham’s A62 Manchester Road just before midnight on June 26, and climbed down to cut into a complex cable system feeding BT and other broadband networks.
Greater Manchester Police said the damage also affected TV signals heading for TV transmitters serving around 2.5 million homes, which were restored by 1.30am.
Read Recombu Digital’s guide to Broadband Cable TheftThe thieves failed to remove anything from the mix of fibre and copper cables, but at least 15 telephone exchanges were cut off, with services to many more affected indirectly.
Supt Craig Thompson said: “Metal thieves will go to considerable length to get what they want, and the people responsible for this incident have no regard for impact of what they did and even though they left empty handed, we are committed to bringing them to justice.
“We have been working closely with BT for some time and when the alarm was raised; our BT colleagues immediately put in-place Operation Rabbit, their full-scale response to incidents of this nature.”
After a day of pulling through new cables, BT Openreach engineers began reconnecting services from 9pm on June 27, with most services back online a day later, and repairs completed by the end of June 29.
Kevin Brown, general manager, BT metal theft task force, said: “I would urge anyone who saw anything suspicious in the area to contact the police or Crimestoppers. Metal theft generates thousands of faults on BT’s network every year and remains a priority for BT”.
A BT Openreach partnership with Crimestoppers offers up to £1,000 as a reward for information leading to arrests and subsequent successful convictions. People can call anonymously and free on 0800 555 111.