POLICE have urged people to be vigilant after three men posing as utilities workers stole electric cable from a block of flats, leaving elderly residents without heat or light for two days.

The men, who were wearing reflective clothing and hard hats, entered the block of flats in Lock Street, Darlington, via the tradesman button and told residents to expect a short power outage while work was carried out to their electricity supply.

Over two days on January 22 and 23, the men ripped out metres of electric cabling and left residents, many of them vulnerable and elderly, without power. It is thought they used a wheelie bin to remove the stolen cable.

Several people who live in the flats had to be put up in hotels while the authorities worked to restore their supply once the theft was discovered.

DC Angela Makepeace, of Darlington CID, said the three men had been ‘particularly cheeky’ and had knocked on people’s doors to make them aware of the ‘work’.

She said: “This incident left residents without power or heat for several days. We would urge members of the public to always ask for proof of identity from anyone who claims to be a utilities or council workman and to check with those organisations if in doubt.”

Residents described the man who knocked on their door as white, aged between 19 and 20, of a skinny build and with a drawn face and blond hair. He was wearing reflective clothing and was said to be about 5ft9in tall.

Anyone with information about the cable thefts or other similar incidents is asked to contact DC Makepeace on the non-emergency 101 number or contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800-555-111.