Thefts of nitrous oxide from hospitals

LOTHIAN and Borders Police are investigating the possibility that boy racers may have been behind a spate of thefts and attempted thefts of nitrous oxide.

Canisters of the so-called “laughing gas” were stolen after break-ins at two Borders hospitals last week and the thefts followed similar incidents in Aberdeen and Dundee.

The gas can be used to increase the power output of car engines. Police said they were keeping an open mind but were considering a link to boy racers.

On Thursday Hawick Community Hospital’s dental department was broken into around 2.10am. Later, Borders General Hospital discovered a storage area had been broken into and a number of canisters of the gas had been stolen.

At the start of the month, two cylinders were stolen from a hospital in Dundee. The next day there was a theft from a hospital in Aberdeen.

Commenting on the thefts, Inspector Brian MacFarlane, from Lothian and Borders Police, said: “We are very much keeping an open mind.

“There are two main uses that we can see at the moment. One is linked to cars where drivers fit them to their engines to to increase the output power of the vehicle. Another is a possible use by illicit drug users where they use the gas to give themselves an illegal high.”

Police have also warned members of the public of the dangers of inhaling the gas, stressing that it can render someone unconscious very quickly.

Insp MacFarlane added: “If the public come across any canisters that are clearly marked up either nitrous oxide or entonox, which is another gas we are targeting, then do not touch them. Immediately contact your local police station and we will deal with them.

Officers in the region are keen to trace the owner of a silver Ford Focus which was seen near both hospitals on the night of the attempted thefts.