THIEVES ransacked a scrapyard, causing thousands of pounds of damage.

Firefighters from Bolton Central and Bolton North stations were called at about 2am yesterday to find three cars and a van had been set alight at the Metro Salvage yard, in Waterloo Street, Tonge Moor.

Owner Jon Walker arrived at his yard to find a trail of debris and destruction.

In total, between 15 and 20 cars were damaged and the firm estimates the cost could between £35,000 and £40,000.

Mr Walker, who said it was one of the worst incidents he had experienced during his time at the site, said: “The damage will be thousands of pounds. The cars are all worth about £1,000 each.

“It’s clear they came for the parts they needed and then set the cars on fire to try and get rid of the fingerprints. They have weighed it up and took the bits and bobs that they needed. They have really gone to town.”

A car had been flipped over using one of the firm’s machines, cars had been burnt out and a number of vehicles had been damaged.

The thieves also stole a number of car parts.

Mr Walker said he believed the raiders managed to get in by climbing up a gate at the site of the yard.

Gaz Crossley, manager of Metro Salvage, described it as “absolutely dramatic.” He said: “It is ridiculous. Just when you feel like you are starting to get somewhere, something like this happens and puts you back 10 steps.”

Metro Salvage was established in the 1980s by Mr Walker’s father, Terry, and his friend Keith Wells.

The plant is split into two areas, with the top yard dealing with scrap and the bottom one, which was targeted by thieves, containing a number of salvage cars which the firm sells.

A spokesman for Bolton Central station confirmed that the fire service was treating the incident as intentional. A spokesman for Greater Manchester Police confirmed they were treating the incident as deliberate and that an investigation was now under way, using CCTV and other lines of inquiry.

Anyone with information should call police on 101 or Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111.