PUBS in Wellington are allegedly being targeted by hard-up thieves who have been blamed for causing hundreds of pounds in damage by prising open wall-mounted ashtrays to steal discarded cigarettes.  At least two pubs in the town have had their ashtrays broken open by vandals who have then appeared to make off with old dog ends in the dead of night on Tuesday, March 19. Anna Steel, who runs the Cottage Inn, in Champford Lane, with her parents, David and Connie, said she had been forced to shell out more than £100 to buy new ashtrays for the pub after the raids. She said after an extended quiet spell, she thought the uninvited visits came to an end - until now. Speaking to the Wellington Weekly News, Ms Steel said: “We were first targeted around six to eight months ago when we found the locks on the ashtrays forced open and the cigarette butts gone. “We have had to replace our ashtrays a couple of times and now our most recent one needs replacing after being broken beyond repair.  “It’s not a cheap fix, it has cost us more than £100 to replace the ashtrays so far.”  Ms Steel said that after an extended quiet spell, she thought the culprit had given up on their night time visits, but that was ntil she heard a noise at around midnight on that Tuesday morning – which she shrugged off as nothing.

However, she later woke to find yet another ashtray had been targeted in a similar fashion. Ms Steel said she was happy for the looters to take the cigarette ends and even invited them to take the key to help save her ashtrays from further destruction.

She said: “I don’t know if it is someone really hard up stealing tobacco to roll their own cigarettes or what, but it is grim.  “Emptying the ashtrays is my least favourite part of the job. If they want to do it they’re more than welcome to they, but they just need to ask me for the key first.”  Similar incidents have been report at The Green Dragon on South Street, whose general manager said the pub was now being forced to buy its third ashtray as a result of the most recent 3am raid.

The general manager said: “I discovered a brand new ashtray had been broken into on Tuesday morning. 

“We previously had a bucket for people to throw their cigarettes in but people were picking them out in the middle of the day, which doesn’t look nice for people who want to come and eat here.  “We have bought two new ashtrays and are now buying a third at a cost of £50 each.”  CCTV has captured an image of a person near a pub at the time of alleged vandalism incident The Green Dragon. Footage possessed by the pub also appears to show two individuals forcing their way into the ashtrays before making off with the contents.  Avon and Somerset Police has ben approached for comment.