THEFTS of a vehicle hugely popular in rural parts of the Tyne Valley are on the rise.

Leading insurer NFU Mutual is urging farmers and enthusiasts to tighten up security, with reports of organsied criminal gangs scouring the countryside stealing Land Rover Defenders.

Claims cost for theft of Defenders rose to £2.1 million in 2019 - an increase of 34 per cent.

Four of the vehicles, which went out of production in 2016, were being stolen every week in January.

While the numbers fell during lockdown, they are on the rise once more.

Rebecca Davidson, NFU Mutual Rural Affairs Specialist, said: “Land Rover Defenders continue to be a target for thieves and every week farmers and enthusiast owners are waking up to find their precious Land Rovers gone – or stripped of bonnets, doors and wings.

“There’s a burgeoning black market for parts, with many of these beloved classics getting dismantled in driveways and farmyards, or being whisked away to chop shops.”

“With prices of Series I models soaring due to their vintage value, organised criminals are scouring farmyards and country properties to spot examples they can steal.”

NFU Mutual, which has insured thousands of Land Rover Defenders from the days when the first Series I models appeared in the nation’s fields, is advising owners to use a combination of physical security and sophisticated electronic measures to protect their precious vehicles.