A DISABLED angler was among those to lose all his fishing gear when thieves cleaned out a trailer full of thousands of pounds worth of equipment at a Dromore fishery.
Two other men, unemployed and nearing retirement age, likewise lost all the fishing tackle that allowed them to pass their time as members of Dromore's Northern Ireland Carp Anglers' Society.
And according to NICAS chairman, Mr. Gary Webb, none of the three is in a position to replace the stolen gear.
The tackle was among a horde of equipment stolen from the NICAS trailer at the society's Lurgan Road fishery; the haul included shovels, forks, scythes, three bed chairs, two tents, two unhooking nets, a cooking set, a 4.5kg gas cylinder, three sleeping bags, two overthrows, two sets of pegs and pots and pans.
Also, two plastic containers, two pop-up shelters, a number of lamps, two easy-domes, three rods, a pod holdall, a landing net, gas cooker, three reels, three alarms, a dropper, tackle box, a table, a petrol lawnmower, two petrol strimmers, one petrol generator, a Johnston 1.5hp outboard engine, an 8ft white inflatable punt and a Shakespear electric engine.
With the society's own boat still missing as The Leader went to press, Mr. Webb said it was possible the thieves - almost certainly more than one given the amount and nature of equipment stolen - had approached the fishery from the river, loaded their haul onto the boat and walked it along the river to a waiting vehicle.
"The actual gates of the premises were still locked and the fence was intact," he said, "so they've either come over the gate or come in by way of the river, whether from the Community Centre direction or down from the sewage works.
"The lawnmower that was taken was a heavy duty lawnmower, too heavy for one man to carry very far, so it must have been a gang of thieves responsible.
"It looked like they'd gone in and just swept the trailer clean, and we still can't find our boat, so it may be they loaded it up and walked it up the river." Mr. Webb was alerted to the theft on Saturday morning and it's believed the thieves struck towards the end of last week.
The Northern Ireland Carp Anglers' Society was formed in 1999; it aims to promote responsible carp angling and is committed to providing an opportunity for the disabled and junior angler to fish safely and responsibly .
Mr. Webb said the theft was the first such incident in the society's 10 years at the Dromore lakes. Apart from some vandalism in the early days, the society has never before experienced any trouble.
The loss of the groundskeeping equipment and tools means NICAS will have to postpone the work parties they usually deploy during the less busy winter months, until they can replace what was lost, though fishing activity itself will not be affected.
Police, meanwhile, are appealing for information; anyone who has information in relation to the theft or anyone who is offered items of for sale in suspicious circumstances is asked to contact them on 0845 600 8000 or speak anonymously to the Crimestoppers charity on 0800 555 111.