back to article SA copper thieves bid for Darwin glory

Two South African men with an evidently scant knowledge of how electricity works were this morning killed while attempting to make off with copper power lines by pulling the cables with wires while standing on the ground. According to the BBC, the pair aged between 25 and 30 made their pitch for Darwin Award immortality at …


This topic is closed for new posts.
  1. paulc

    Prices Skyrocket???

    I was under the distinct impression the price had crashed and we had mountains of tin cans and empty glass bottles filling up aircraft hangars on disused RAF bases because there was no demand for it what with the credit crunch and all and the Chinese switching their factories off...

  2. Anonymous Coward

    What about the Sunderland....

    ...."copper" thief who cut through the fibre-cables near Doxford Park and couldn't understand where all the copper was?

    Also in Tyne and Wear, someone stole 1/4 mile of railway tracks.

    Pre-Darwinian tribes, me thinks.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Dead Vulture

    Copper prices....

    "The problem of copper theft is fast becoming a world-wide issue, as prices skyrocket."

    Think you need to check your info. It's been in free fall for several months, only recently stabilising.

  4. Ash

    Poor title?

    I read this as "SA Copper thieves bid for Darwin glory"

    I wanted to hear of a rogue Jo'berg police officer who decided to display his praise for Obama in oneof the less afluent districts.

  5. matt

    Railway track...

    is meant to be very valuable... it's very good steal...

  6. Oliver Mayes

    Not surprised

    My father used to work as a commissioning engineer in all sorts of countries. He once installed a backup diesel power generator at a steel mill in Nigeria. When he got back home there was a message asking him to go out there again as it wasn't working. Turns out that within an hour of him finishing and leaving site the locals had smashed the doors in and stolen the whole generator and all the spare kit that had been left in the generator room.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Erm, "Darwin Award Immortality"?

    Something of a contradiction in terms, no?

  8. Cameron Colley


    The clues are in the words "Tin" and "glass" in your first sentence and the word "Copper" in the article. ;~)

  9. J

    Shocking news

    Sorry for the title. (not)

    Well, they deserve to get zapped, if only due to stupidity.

    @Prices skyrocket

    Glass bottles, tin cans different from copper.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Suggest Bulgarian solution

    In 1995 the electrical company left the charred remains of one idiot who tried to steal electricity (not cables) to dangle off the 220KV mainline grid for more than 24 hours. AFAIK, they claimed that they cannot switch the load off until the planned maintenance period next night. As a result anybody travelling on the bus up/down the road could see the charred remains of the thrifty gentleman versus the backdrop of his slightly smoked house.

    He tried to hook up his domestic supply straight to the 220KV line using jumper cable clips connected to a 50m roll of flex and won the Darwin award on the spot. As it was clear why he died and how he died the police was not particularly persistent in getting the utility to hand off whatever was left of him.

  11. John Young

    They don't make power cables out of copper

    It's too heavy, too stretchy and too expensive. Anyone for aluminium?

    Hard to see what really happened though - with Joburg emergency services quoted as saying "There's approximately 3 000 to 6 000 kilowatts running through the cables, they stood no chance because of the high voltage."

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    And in deepest Essex

    The electricity supply here is disrupted by stolen cables so frequently - we are instructed to phone the police in the event of a power cut !

    (this is rural essex)

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Instant Justice

    "Thou shalt not steal" said the Lord and dispensed summary justice in a flash.

    It was a fair copper me lud

  14. A J Stiles

    @ John Young

    Anybody who is stupid enough to try to steal *live* power cables probably is not smart enough to know what they're made of.

    Warning icon, because they should have heeded (hed?) it.

  15. Disco-Legend-Zeke
    Paris Hilton

    All this is speeding the switch to fiber

    talked to a TELCO foreman here in vegas. He said the cost of the copper is secondary to the labor involved. Copper thieves also target air conditioner coils, another super expensive replacement.

    Thieves sometimes tie a winch to the service panel, and pull the wire out of an entire building.

    But if they tie a wench to the panel, hope its not paris.

  16. James

    Izinyoka - Ads by the SA Power Utility (Eskom)

    Advertisement on SA TV against cable theft...

  17. Paul

    Reminds me...

    ...of a year or two ago, they were working on some cable installation on my route to work. The wooden screens around the hole had the phrase

    "fiber optic, no copper"

    crudely spray-painted on them.

    Guess they were worried some ignorant redneck would try to steal the "copper" wires.

    The local power company has also run ads trying to teach people that they'll more than likely die if they try to steal power lines.

  18. Warhelmet

    Underground Cables

    @John Young - I'm sure that you are right. I remember visiting National Grid control centre as a school kid and I think I'm right in saying that the big stuff uses aluminium.

    However... Am I right in thinking that little stuff and underground stuff uses copper? My parents' house is supplied by a long underground cable and it was dug up and stolen. Telephone cables too at one point.

    Isn't one of the Rolling Stones a metal-detectorist?

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Oliver Mayes

    "When he got back home there was a message asking him to go out there again as it wasn't working."


  20. Dave

    @AC #1

    "Also in Tyne and Wear, someone stole 1/4 mile of railway tracks."

    Yeah, but it didn't matter cos the train was up on piles of bricks cos some Geordieshad stolen the wheels

  21. Vic

    they are indeed made of copper

    Particularly the ones overhead railway lines.

    There was an entertaining article on the beeb about a year ago about Cape Town's exports to China. 1. Fruit. 2. Copper. Hang on a minute. We've got no copper deposits here, no plants to get ore into metal....oh yeah, it's all stolen (aka 'recycled'). They now have a task team (called the 'Copperheads') who run around investigating cable theft particularly and have a pretty awesome success rate for SA investigations. Further proof that the theory of specialisation is a good one.

    Around that time of the beeb's article, I had all the copper plumbing at the back of my house stolen, the garden tap from the front nicked and wandered out one afternoon to find a couple of little bastards in the process of stealing my water meter. Interestingly, since the copper price has deflated, my local scrapyard really isn't doing the business it once was. It's mighty quiet down there most days. And I replaced the plumbing with the non-copper variety so we're all happy except the thieving guys, who have now resorted to nicking the contents of people's cars, including their CDs, CD players and speakers. So I don't have sound in the jalopy any more now.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Note to media outlets

    Commodity prices have fallen. Wake up chaps. I know it's good for your stories, but copper prices are no longer sky high (same applies to oil prices in case you've a story about that you're keeping for a slow day).

    And while we're on the subject, stock markets are also up from their lows of last October. I know reality's a pain to keep up with, but it's worth the effort. Honest.

  23. Adrien DuPreez

    Not an everyday occurrence....

    ...only every other day. The SA phone company stops replacing overhead copper cables once they get stolen 3 times within a year, and just issues a credit for the full amount of the monthly subscription fees. No one in our area has had a land-line for the last year or so (although we allegedly made 20 minutes worth of calls two months ago, but that is another story most likely involving alligator clips and phone company staff)

  24. Alan

    @Stu Reeves

    I'm thinking that someone who can't figure out that it's not a good idea to try to steal live electrical cable doesn't read the financial press very often...

  25. Moss Icely Spaceport

    Years ago

    The North American Indians used to chop down the telegraph poles and use them for fire wood.

    Same problem, different material.

    Ergo, little has changed.

  26. Kanhef

    Not the first, won't be the last

    1999 award for applying bolt cutters to an 11kV cable:

    2008 nominee for tapping into the distribution lines during a thunderstorm:

    2008 hon. mention for applying a hacksaw to another 11kV cable:

    Not quite the same offense, but a 2000 contestant for trying to steal a gas main:

    <- icon for the warning signs they ignore

  27. P Saunders
    Paris Hilton

    cable theft not a common occurence?

    It happened twice in one month in my very small suburb in Pretoria. This happens all the time and the chance of successfully remiving the cable is greater than failure. The odd toasted corpse is rare.

    paris, 'cause she's the only good looking icon here.

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @ P Saunders

    "The odd toasted corpse is rare."

    Surely they're well done?

  29. Dave Coventry


    On South Africa's East Coast they replaced the copper telephone cables with fibre-optic (doesn't work so good for electricity, though) precisely because of the theft problem.

    The problem was that the farmers burnt the sugar cane fields melted the fibre-optics.

  30. Anonymous Coward Silver badge
    Anonymous Coward

    ah yes

    back in the 1970s, a high school classmate in Denver thought it practical and economical to go stealing cable from the transmission lines up in the foothills. As far as I know he never tried to put this into practice. None of us to whom he related the notion were tempted to join him in trying it.

  31. Lukin Brewer

    Any metal, any place, any time.

    A friend of mine was doing building work on a site out in the satellite towns of SW London (Chessington, possibly) in the mid 1990s. If there was any site security, it wasn't up to the task. There were ne'er-do-wells roaming the site, grabbing anything that could possibly be scrapped or fenced. Bollards and railings would be pulled out of the ground before the concrete had time to set. If you put down a tool, it was gone. Even the old oil drum filled with water for washing off tools in was emptied and stolen. In the end, the crews took to taking in cheap polaroid cameras, persuading the thieves to hold off until the line of bollards or whatever was installed, and then photographing the completed work as proof that it had been done, and done properly, before the thieves had it away.

  32. Matt
    Thumb Up


    large cable is indeed made out of copper, and yes it is very heavy. I used to work for an electrical wholesaler we had massive drums of the stuff, stored outside.....the pikies even nicked deisel out of our lorries!

    Most cable is actually priced off of the price of copper.

This topic is closed for new posts.

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2021