'Fake Sheikh' Exposes 'Unscrupulous' Brentford Scrap Metal Dealers

Martin and Billy Wells allegedly agree to buy materials 'stolen' from war memorial

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The Wellses premises on High Street Brentford

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Two local scrap dealers have been accused of buying metal which they had been told was stolen in a sting organised by the Sunday Times.

Billy Wells and his son Martin run a yard behind the army surplus store on High Street, Brentford. They were approached by a team from the newspaper that included the 'Fake Sheikh' Mazher Mahmood, who has been involved in a series of successful undercover operations. They were acting on a tip that the pair would be willing to buy metal no questions asked.

The team approached Martin Wells with some cabling that was clearly marked 'Property of BT.' They claim that they were then invited into the premises to discuss the matter with his father Billy. They say that they told the pair that the cable was stolen but despite that Billy Wells said, "That's all right, we can take it. We've got to strip it down... There's no comebacks here, no worries.. You could do a murder here and nobody worries about it."

Wells Snr. explained how the cabling could be cleaned by removing the sheath and the BT labelling surrounding the copper and once this had been done it was worth £2,000 a ton on the black market. Copper cabling can be transformed into untraceable lumps by a machine called a granulator which is available on the internet for a few hundred pounds. The reporters were told that the cleaning was done by a company in Hanwell called P&L Parts and Services. That company is run by 41 year old Peter Smith who came to the Wellses yard on being told of a fictitious haul of 5 tons of cabling which the team claimed to have stolen. One of his associates told the reporter that friends of his had been arrested recently for buying BT cabling.

Later in the week a photographer from the Sunday Times was spotted by Smith and associate observing their Hanwell premises and they gave chase but they failed to catch him.

The report then claims that the Wellses were offered lead flashing that they were told had been stolen from the roof of a war memorial. 81 year old Billy Wells allegedly offered £10 for it and said, "You want to be very careful what you do with them. I tell you why, because you get somebody, probably and old soldier, and they grass you up over it."

The Sunday Times had launched the investigation to identify the middlemen in the international trade in scrap metal. Thieves steal the metal from telecommunications and transport cabling, roofs and other metal structures in public places. This has caused substantial disruption particularly to train and tube services which have been cancelled after important cables have been removed. They then sell to middlemen who melt down the metal which may then end up being exported to places like China where it is used in their expanding construction industry.

Metal theft is believed to cost the UK economy about £1 billion a year and a consortium including BT, the British Transport Police and the Energy Networks Association is pressing for tougher laws to combat the crime.

Billy Wells when approached later by the Sunday Times denied buying metal from them saying, "We never bought any metal off you. The only metal we buy is old batteries."

Peter Smith did not respond to the Sunday Times request for a comment. They have passed their files on the case to the authorities and donated the money received to the Royal British Legion.

December 9, 2011