'We live every day in fear' - says Yorkshire farmer threatened to be burnt alive

A Yorkshire farmer is living "every day in fear" after criminals repeatedly threatened to burn him alive and hit him with a hammer in a series of targeted attacks.
A Yorkshire farmer is living "every day in fear" after criminals repeatedly threatened to burn him alive and hit him with a hammer in a series of targeted attacks.
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A farmer in Yorkshire is living “every day in fear” after criminals repeatedly threatened to burn him alive and hit him with a hammer in a series of targeted attacks.

The farmer, who has been involved in the agricultural industry for more than 40 years, has spoken exclusively to The Yorkshire Post amid concerns over the allocation of police officers to rural areas.

The chairwoman of the National Rural Crime Network, Julia Mulligan, has claimed that the Government’s grant funding formula “disproportionately hits rural areas”, and the farmer has revealed the devastating impact rural crime has had on his life.

During the past 12 months, the man’s farm has been attacked by arsonists, he has had livestock killed by unruly dogs, and his newborn lambs have been shot dead after gun-wielding offenders used them as target practice.

He has also been repeatedly threatened by criminals armed with weapons, while his family have also felt the brunt of the problem.

“You never know what you are going to find every day,” the farmer, who does not want to be named due to fear of reprisals, said. “From one day to the next you often find something has been stolen or damage has been caused to property. I am on edge every day and it upsets the whole family and our way of life.

“Farming is not a peaceful, idyllic way of life anymore - not like it used to be. I have been a farmer for over 40 years and its been a slow stoop over the years, gradually getting worse and worse.

Read more: The hidden cost of rural crime in Yorkshire
The farmer has also had his land targeted by poachers and has had tools and equipment stolen.

He has 88 acres of grassland that he has been unable to farm because of problems with travellers who have horses grazing.

“I can not touch the fields because of the threat level,” he said. “I just don’t go near there, it isn’t worth it.”

The farmer said he has been forced to take all the security measures possible to protect his property, but thieves are still causing problems.

“We have had people in our yard at 2.30am intimidating us,” he said. “We now have CCTV and electronic gates to stop people getting in and we have blocked off the gateways to the fields, but they still try and cause trouble.

“One night I found a group of men trying to load their van up with my scrap metal. When I confronted them about it, one of them was about two inches away from me and had a spanner and threatened to beat me to a pulp.”

The farmer is not alone in being a repeated victim of rural crime.

“I know another farmer who got so stressed and upset about being constantly targeted that he ended up moving out of his own home,” he said.

Read more: Farming Minister Robert Goodwill backs role of grazing livestock in climate change battle
North Yorkshire is the fourth worst-affected county for rural crime, with a total cost of nearly £1.8m last year – an increase of 86 per cent on 2017. Across Yorkshire as a whole, rural crime was estimated to have cost nearly £4m.

But the larger, undocumented cost lay in the stress and potential lost livelihood caused to victims.

Former agricultural minister Robert Goodwill - a farmer on the 250 acre farm at Terrington near Malton where his family have farmed since 1850 - and also the Scarborough and Whitby MP recently spent a night shift with a rural crime officer in North Yorkshire.

He said: “One of the big issues at the moment is quad bike thefts where criminals are coming in from neighbouring areas and targeting the farmers and it really does have a devastating effect on their livelihood, which many people don’t realise.

“Urban fringe farmers also have specific problems with criminals coming onto their lands and committing various offences including vandalism and arson.

“Many farmers feel vulnerable and isolated because of their location and I am pleased we are now getting our first contingent of new police officers the Government previously pledged because the farming business is very vulnerable to crime.”

Libby Bateman, north rural adviser to the Country Land and Business Association, previously said farmers in the county are becoming prisoners in their own homes.