Leading rural insurer NFU Mutual is urging farmers and enthusiast owners to increase security measures as organised criminal gangs are scouring the countryside stealing iconic Land Rover Defenders.

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.”

While at least four Defender thefts a week were being reported to NFU Mutual in January 2020, numbers fell to six a month from April to June.

“Unfortunately, Defender thefts have risen sharply again and we are heading back up towards pre-COVID levels,” said Rebecca.

“We’re warning people in the countryside to be on high alert.

"Trackers, alarms and storing vehicles out of sight have all been effective measures protecting these British icons.”

The insurer revealed that its claims costs for theft of Defenders rose 34 per cent to £2.1 million in 2019.