back to article Cops hunt charred power cable thief

Derbyshire Police are looking for a "badly scorched" wannabe copper cable thief who decided it was a lucrative idea to hacksaw through an 11,000V power line, Reuters reports. Almost 800 residents in the village of Creswell were blacked out on Saturday night for several hours after the bright spark made his pitch for Darwin …


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  1. Anonymous Coward

    Narrative Imperative

    I wonder at what voltage it becomes possible to simply vaporise a person? Did the police mention a pair of smoking boots left at the crime scene along side the hacksaw?

  2. Anonymous Coward

    "no sign"

    "Cops found said hacksaw embedded in the cable, and a lit blowtorch at the scene, but no sign of the high-voltage perp"

    Did they look in a tree about 100 metres away?

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not just electric...

    I live in the next village over, and a few houses down, they took the Earth wire, but also tried to take the gas main pipe as well - They split it, it was repaired, two days later they tried again - Just how stupid are some people?

  4. Daniel Wilkie


    Unless I've got my terminology wrong, it would be the current that would vapourise somebody rather than the voltage. Though I suspect I'm wrong ;)

    Flames, because its a likely side effect of Vapourisation.

  5. Kura

    Now that's...


  6. Stewart Rice

    Darwin Awards

    More likely, they should be searching for a smoking corpse in a nearby hedge or tree...

  7. The March Hare

    An Electrifying Article

    mine's the insulated jacket with the melted gloves please....

  8. Anonymous Coward

    Could he be related to this guy?

    A couple of years ago a Darwin Award candidate was caught at the steelworks at Stocksbridge near Sheffield. The 11Kv lines for part of the plant run in a culvert under the works along with the Little Don River. He claimed that he "had got lost" and wandered into the culvert (down a 6 ft drop). Security found him near a damaged cable and a hacksaw. Part of the works was being closed down at the time and he obviously thought that the cable was no longer live. Luckily for him he was caught before he got through the casing on the cable as it was still live - it went to a different part of the plant. The 250Kv lines that went to the closed down area were overhead. I wonder what would have happened to him if he had got through the casing of the cable given that he was standing in a foot of water to get to the cable.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    yes it would be the current - but current doesn't flow without voltage driving it

  10. Tom

    Pipes as well

    I remember years ago that the tennents of one of the houses near me took all of the lead pipe out of their house and sold it, then they claimed they had been robbed. The council put in a new kitchen, bathroom and at the same time central heating! Sometimes stuipedity does pay!

  11. Anonymous Coward

    Didn't do it right

    Everyone knows that absolute voltage isn't an issue, it's the potential difference that'll kill you (think cows, lightning).

    Essentially, if you have one point of electrical contact it's not possible to be electrocuted (a spark gap counts as electrical contact)...

    so, if he'd climbed the pylon, then jumped onto the cable, cut through it (only holding on to one side) and let go before touching something else he would have been fine! (maybe a broken leg from the fall though)

    Now, the important question... what was the blowtorch for?

    I think we need a proper darwin icon... maybe a beagle, or Tricia MacMillan?

  12. Neil Barnes Silver badge

    Think of it...

    as evolution in action.

  13. Anonymous Coward

    Just wait

    Rather the rozzers try and find the culprit, why don't they just wait until the tea leaf puts in a compensation claim for his injury? Sorted!

  14. thomasthetanker

    If he goes to court...

    will he be guilty as charged?

  15. Kane Silver badge

    @ Neil Barnes

    Yes, the Gene Pool does need the occasional bottle of bleach to help clean it out....

  16. Anonymous Coward

    Add my vote for a Darwin Icon!

    A comment is required apparently.

  17. James O'Shea
    Paris Hilton

    Outsource the job to the colonies

    Many years ago a relative of mine worked in the System Control Centre for the Jamaica Public Service Company, the electric utility in Jamaica. One night reports of an outage came in when there was nothing indicating a problem on the board, so System Control had Transmission & Special Services send a truck out to find out what was going on. When they arrived at the outage area, the T&SS men called in that the reason for the outage was that someone had removed about several hundred metres of 24,000 volt primary distribution cable. Whoever had done it hadn't cut through the cable, they'd climbed the poles where there were attachment points and dismantled the attachments. A more difficult, but much safer, way to steal cable.

    Perhaps citizens of the <cough> ex-Mother Country </cough> might learn a thing or two.

    Paris, 'cause she's high-voltage.

  18. Jon

    And and....

    When he is arrested 'resistance is futile'

  19. Jon

    And and and...

    As the investigation is currently under way there was a dawn raid at his omh and there was little resistance.

    Police are soldering on getting evidence.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Aye, we definitely need a Darwin icon...

    Paris, 'cos I 'm surprised she doesn't qualify for one....

  21. Neil Greatorex


    The cops should be looking for a smoking corpse in a local copse.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Why is it so surprising?

    As someone taught general science from an early age, I have a healthy respect for things I don't understand.

    I believe signs that say Danger of Death, but sadly there are people out there who just don't know any better. How many people do you know who:

    Don't understand Electricity,

    Think Danger of death signs are there to keep you away from some government conspiricy,

    It won't happen to them,

    Mobile phones work everywhere, Tunnels, Caves, the middle of the kalahari.

    Trains can be made to run on time.

    I'm sure we can think of thousands more, ultimately we can but hope Darwin wins out, but there's always the Health & Safety executive to protect them. So that's:

    10 meter vadle proof fences with razor wire to protect all power lines,

    lables on the cable every metre warning "Danger of Death, not suitable for cutting with a hacksaw"

    Each pole to have rubber boots & gloves available for anyone who wants to climb it.

  23. Dan

    @anonymous coward

    You're right but he still wouldn't be able to go near the cable once it's on the ground...

    The potential curve around the point of contact is sufficient enough that, if you stand with one foot closer to the cable, a current would flow up one leg and down the other.

    Having traversed any soft tissue that might be in between them.


  24. Anonymous Coward

    @Tom, Re: Pipes as well

    Lead pipes? That might explain a lot.

    Haven't you limeys de-leaded everything yet or are you still using bits of old roman plumbing in your houses?

    If so, I'd say it was a brilliant ploy to get the lead out. I hope the council didn't replace it with -- gasp -- more lead!

  25. Nile Heffernan

    Lagos awaits

    Welcome to the Third World. Specifically, Nigeria. There are lots of things they don't have: some because they can't afford them, and some because they are are not a stable society under rule of law.

    That is to say, they cannot have many of the things we take for granted because someone will steal them - pipes, cables, roadsigns; or because someone will rob you if you try to use them - mobile phones, large sums of cash, sidewalks; or because the institutions of society are corrupt - the banks, the hospitals, the courts and the whole structure of enforceable contracts, trustworthy trademarks (are these pharamaceuticals genuine?), quality standards in food and so on.

    Is it that bad here? Not yet. But we have the poverty to drive endemic crime - life is so cheap it's worth stripping live power cables - an economic underclass who are uneducated and will never have a stake in society, and weak public institutions; the courts, for example, lack the resolve and the power to either reform or oppress the criminals and seem increasingly to be a plaything of the rich.

    Lagos awaits. And no, most Nigerians don't like it any more than we would. The difference between them and us is that their country appears to be improving.

  26. Steve
    Thumb Down

    blow torch

    Presumably if you can 'cut' the cable using the blow torch then you're fairly safe (assuming a dry day) as you won't be in contact with the cable. And once severed from the supply you can cut the other end of the cable using the hacksaw. Obviously if you get this backwards it's going to hurt.

    Knowing Creswell, I'm not surprised though, no doubt it was one of the residents.

  27. Anton Ivanov
    Paris Hilton

    They should give them the "Bulgarian Treatement"

    I remember the cops and the electric company leaving one such genius to hang for more than a week off 22KV grid mast in the mid-90es. It was close to the A-road passing through the village so everyone can see him. No idea if it was intentional or not, but AFAIK the number of cable theft related incidents in the area decreased considerably.

  28. Stuart Van Onselen


    Here in South Africa, we have seen the results of Darwinism: All our stupid thieves have been vapourised long ago.

    But we still have regular power- or telephone-failures due to cable theft. The smart thieves have survived, and they have thrived!

    (Of course, we now also have nation-wide power-failures due to another class of incompetent thieves, aka our government. May the fleas of a thousand camels invest Alec Irwin's pubic hair!!!)

  29. Phil Rigby
    Paris Hilton

    It's the electricity company's fault

    Was there a sign every 50 feet along the length of the cable that said "Danger, using a blowtorch or hacksaw on this cable could result in injury or possibly death"? Was there? No. So the guy is probably trying to figure out how he can sue the power company.

  30. Stuart Van Onselen

    Ack! Typo

    That would be "infest", of course, not "invest". D'uh!

  31. Mage Silver badge


    Most stuff outside the house, especially overheads is Aluminium?

  32. Simon Robinson


    When recently working for a signage company, one of our installation guys was setting up an external sign outside a large office building. He was told to move the sign to a different location as the original site was over a 35kV main line. He moved, and procedded to excavate using a mini-jackhammer. Five feet down, he hits said 35kV line. He's a big chap but he still managed to jump straight out of the hole...

    Jackhammer melted beyond repair. Installer OK though.

    One thing - the offices belonged to e-on...

  33. Ron Eve

    Possible film title?

    "Schmuck, Shock and Two Smoking Earholes"


  34. Mark

    Lead pipes

    Well, lead pipes are pretty safe, since leeching isn't much of a problem compared to the volatile chemicals produced when curing plastics. Those plasicisers are deadly and very quickly leeched out (so much safer when they're ten years old).

    As to Darwin, the problem is there are too many people pissing in the gene pool. Rip off all the warning labels and let nature take its course.

  35. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Power delivered...

    The weird current vs voltage thing..

    To vapourise someone requires power, power is current * voltage.

    And yes, that's the potential difference across the body being vapourised, but since power cables are labelled relative to the earth they'll be stood on, that's still 11KV.

    It must be an insulated cable because they apparently got halfway through before being zapped, and presumably the blowtorch is for removing the insulation.

    I'm baffled as to how they could have survived this.

  36. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    I'm baffled as to how they could have survived this

    Maybe they didn't ... watch out for any car crashes where an occupant is "burned to death"...

  37. b166er

    Smoking boots

    When I was working at T5 installing their data cabling, we had to attend a High Voltage course to inform us of the dangers of the various HV busbars around the site.

    We were shown a video filmed in the late seventies, which was hilarious, flat caps, etc. They had a dummy with a chainsaw rigged to cut through an HV cable. As the chainsaw pierced the sheathing, a 10ft flame erupted from the cable and 'vapourised' the dummy. All that was left, was a pair of smoking boots!

    Excuse the pun, but I was shocked to be told that a 10ft flame would come out of the cable. I imagined that a person would be killed from the current shorting through their body, not that they would be incinerated by a flame.

    Needless to say, I treated the HV lines around that site with the utmost respect.

  38. Mr B

    Blow torch ...

    Hmm I would not cut through live cables using a blowtorch, even with a neutral flame, at that kind of temperature the electrons are quite free to flow ... there is no mention made of current intensity but 11 kV is quite a low voltage so I'd guess the current must have been quite high.

    No trace of the copper robber but his last words were:

    Stick a fork in me ...

  39. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    11kV can only jump about half a centimetre in neutral air at room temperature, and I suppose the gas supply hose(s) would have been insulators, or there might have been a rather large gas-air explosion as well as the copper flame...

  40. Anonymous Coward

    It must be in the water

    This is not thefirst time this has happened. We actually had a Darwin award for a person who did the same thing a few miles away in Wingerworth, Chesterfield.

    Mmm....three attempts to steal copper cable in the same area

  41. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    "bright spark"


  42. Tom

    Is this up to date?

    The same thing happened in the same area about 3 years ago...

  43. jai


    potential candidate for next year's Darwin Awards then?

  44. Paul Young

    Switching Cabs 3 Phase & Vaporisation

    When I worked for a Power Control company a few years ago

    We had a cab returned to us that an engineer had been standing in....

    Said engineer inserted a 24" Screwdriver between two 30KV bus bars

    The cab had been returned for investigation.....

    I can still remember the smell and the sight of melted person all over the

    walls and door.

    The thing is with these cabs they were "SAFE" when the door was open

    Stupid idiot had closed the door and was using a torch and a screwdriver

    to tighten up a loose screw for the current meter on the outside.

    He should have got a Darwin Award

    Needless to say the cab was returned after rebuild to.... wait for it...


    Nuff Said

    Mines the coat with the none conductive layer

  45. David Bell


    Having watched "idiocracy" the other night, i firmly believe that the HSE should just let darwinism win out.

    We constantly protect the stupid so that they can reproduce (we even give them money to live on) and bring up similarly uneducated idiots, yet the intelligent among us can't afford to as we have houses to pay for and tax, and....well....we're just too busy working and the like.

    Stop giving out benefits and stop putting ridiculous safety signs on everything otherwise we're gonna be a race of incompetent idiots!

  46. Anonymous Coward

    @Mark, re: Lead pipes

    "Well, lead pipes are pretty safe, since leeching [sic] isn't much of a problem..."

    I believe that's what the Romans thought too. Look where it got them.

    Over on this side of the pond we no longer allow the use of lead-based solder for copper pipes. We also tell everyone to let the water run for a few seconds before filling their cup or teapot to flush out the water that's been sitting in the pipes leaching* the lead out of the solder.

    And I don't believe we allow plastic plumbing anywhere for supply. Waste, yes, but not the supply.

    *I believe that's the correct spelling in all variations of English. Unless you really meant you've got leeches in your water supply. Yuck. I'm going to have to be extra careful what I drink the next time I'm over. I wonder if I can even trust the beer now.

  47. Chris Robinson

    maybe he uttered that line of Mustafa's:

    "I'm still alive -- but, I've been VERY BADLY BURNED..."

    "if somebody could please help me, I'm in quite a lot of pain..."

  48. Charles Manning


    "Lead pipes" : Lead pipes likely did not kill Romans. Apparently Romans, particularly soldiers, would add ground up lead to their food (pre rhino horn and steriods days perhaps). The demise of the Roman empire was most likely due to them over extending themselves and breaking the bank, much like all colonial power since then: GB, Portugal, Spain, ... and untimately USA as we're seeing right now.

    "One point of contact": It is a myth that just touching a power line is safe because you have no path to ground. Current still flows through your body to charge the surface of your body. At low voltages this is not significant (and is probably non-fatal at 11kV), but at much higher voltages (400-800kV) the currents can kill. Those dudes working on live power lines wear speacial metallic suites to conduct the charging current without it going through their bodies.

    Of course copper thieves should be more organised, as they are in South Africa. There crims are using the rolling blackout schedules to plan their copper theft activities.

    How did you poms ever get an empire together with such thickies on board?

  49. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Seems to me like...

    ...evolution in action.

  50. Dave

    @AC re plastic pipes

    Well, I'm sat in a house in the US that is infested with dehumidifiers due to the failure of a supply-side plastic pipe last week. They're horrible things, prone to fail catastrophically due to fluid rams in the pipework when the washing machine or dishwasher close the valve.

  51. Mikey

    @ Charles Manning

    "How did you poms ever get an empire together with such thickies on board?"

    Easy, we just shipped all the thickies out to the colonies, and got on with taking over the world.

    As for copper theft, its always amusing to see the evidence left behind when the gyppos try and theive the copper power cables from the railway in 3rd rail areas. 650-750 volts DC, at 2.4KA does quite a number on a human body...

  52. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    As one of the few responsible adults in here...

    all I have to say is that must have been a really quite the sight. Not because of the visual effects, but to be witness of someone so fracking stupid... I'm in awe. If they ever find this choad, he should be sterilized.

  53. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Undersea Cables

    So this is what has happened to all those undersea Interweb cable thingies!

    Paris likes her cables long and thick.

  54. Richard Freeman

    @I'm baffled as to how they could have survived this

    People who tangle with High Voltages often (as in more often than you might expect) survive.

    Over about 500V the electricity punctures your skin (which provides Electrical insulation) then most of the current arcs across the soft tissue under the skin to the nearest Handiest earth (or other Current Return path) as a result of this not much current ends up heading deeper into the body to fibrillate your heart.

    Of course the arcing current causes considerable localised heating and serious Burns - it is not unusual to lose a limb or two and Death from tangling with High voltages is usually the result of the serious burns the Victim suffers and may take some time - it is not unheard of for people to take a minute or two.

    If you wish to commit suicide climbing a high voltage power pole is one of the worst ways to try

  55. David Sidebotham
    Jobs Halo

    Little green men

    This is not the first time this has happened. You would think this guy would have learned by now.

    In my experience people who come into close proximity to electricity and copper get sprayed with molten and vapourised copper. Aside from putting the person into hospital the copper embeds into the skin and eventually turns green. So all the police have to do is look for the "little green men from Creswell".

  56. Tim Schomer


    "If they ever find this choad, he should be sterilized."

    I suspect this won't be necessary, if he was that dim, he's likely to have been straddling the cable and that would have taken care of any sterilization issues. Besides,who would want to procreate with a lump of charcoal...

    ... yes, the black one please, and the hat.

  57. Andy Bell

    Remember kids....

    For a long time a knew a one armed young man who as a boy came into contact with a high voltage line. It took his arm, apart from a 3-4 inch stump and made quite a mess of the side of his torso.

    I've got quite some respect for the power of power.

  58. Dalen


    Now I can't get AC/DC's "High Voltage" out of my head.

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