Nearly half a million pounds worth of stolen farm and plant machinery has been recovered in Dorset - and police are asking for help in returning it to its rightful owners.

Three men from East Dorset have been arrested after a police operation targetting organised crime.

A 21-year-old man from East Dorset was arrested on suspicion of dangerous driving, theft and handling stolen goods and a 47-year-old male, also from East Dorset, was arrested on suspicion of theft and handling stolen goods. An 82-year-old man, from East Dorset, was arrested on suspicion of handling stolen goods. All three have been released as the investigation continues.

On Tuesday, June 14 officers from Dorset Police Rural Crime officers and Hampshire Constabulary, executed warrants at two rural locations in East Dorset as part of Operation Hardware.

Operation Hardware was an intelligence led operation, created following a suspicious incident in Hampshire. A vehicle was reported as driving at speed along the A338. As Hampshire Police Officers followed, it made an abrupt turn, mounted a grass area and disappeared.

Detailed police investigations into the vehicle showed that the vehicle has been stolen from London, the number plates being used on it had been cloned from a vehicle out of county and therefore the insured driver was not the legal owner of the vehicle.

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This gave reasonable grounds to execute search warrants at the home address of the insured driver.

A wide area search was conducted at two rural locations in East Dorset and several vehicles reported as stolen from Dorset and Essex were located and seized, as well as a large quantity of plant and agricultural machinery, including tractors. A device, believed to be a Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) making machine, was also recovered and seized.  

South West Farmer: Police have set up a webpage showing the stolen machinery to help identify the rightful ownersPolice have set up a webpage showing the stolen machinery to help identify the rightful owners

Acting Inspector, Lee Turner, from Dorset Police Rural Crime Team, said: “This is an example of the importance of partnership working. We are in regular contact with our partners in Hampshire Constabulary, sharing information to disrupt and detect suspected cross border criminality.

"Operation Hardware was an opportunity for us to come together and target a cross border suspect, known by officers in both Dorset Police and Hampshire Constabulary.

“All items we have been able to identify owners for are in the process of being returned. This includes three vehicles and plant machinery items. Owners for some of the recovered power tools have also been identified and we are currently arranging the return of these.

“We are seeking your help to find the rightful owners of other equipment recovered and ask you to please help us identify the rightful owners of this recovered property.”

A webpage has been set up on the Dorset Police website - - with pictures of some of the recovered items.

Anyone who has had items stolen should look at the webpage and see if they believe any of the recovered equipment belongs to them.

If you think anything displayed could belong to you, please email Dorset Police at - quoting reference number 55220093933.