MINDLESS metal thieves "should have their hands cut off" after leaving nearly 5,000 Sidcup residents without phone lines for a week.

The criminals carved up a bundle of cables below Hatherley Road at around 12.30pm on November 12, but tripped an alarm meaning they walked away empty handed.

The attempted theft left thousands of shops, businesses and residents without phone lines or internet connections as technicians worked day and night to fix the damage.

Some customers were still having issues yesterday (Tuesday, November 20) while engineers tested 160m of freshly installed cables worth £29 a metre.

Basil Hodges, 76, proposed some corporal punishment for metal thieves after he was still without a phone line on Friday (November 16).

The Frinton Road resident said: "They should have their hands cut off, especially when they steal church memorials.

"If you haven’t got a mobile phone you have had it."

The retired builder had to get his wife to borrow a neighbour’s mobile after he was sent a letter telling him he had been prescribed the wrong pills.

The grandfather-of-three added: "I tried to get in touch with my doctor but couldn’t.

"There are a lot of other elderly people around and if they want an ambulance they don’t have mobile phones."

Shop assistant Linda Browning had to put a "cash only" sign on the counter of the Osbon pharmacy in Steynton Avenue after the dead line took out the business’ card machine.

The chemist receives emergency prescriptions by fax and had to use an upstairs device not connected to BT.

Ms Browning said: "We have definitely lost business.

"People have been coming in unable to pay because they don’t have cash.

"These days everybody uses card."

On Friday (November 16) News Shopper spoke to six Openreach technicians working to restore connections at the scene of the crime in Hatherley Road.

Technician and copper joiner Colin Dalton, 44, said: "A lot of people we speak to are elderly and the telephone is a lifeline for some of them.

"The people round here seem to be ok; they’re understanding but in some areas they’re arsey."

To protect the £4,640 of copper - the thickest line BT uses - new security measures are likely to be installed including a dye pack: a booby trap rigged to explode in the face of potential thieves, marking them with strong ink for months.

A BT spokeswoman claimed engineers had completed all cabling by Monday (November 19) but some customers were still having problems with their lines.

She added: "We have hundreds of customers impacted by this mindless criminal act."

Hundreds of phone lines in Sidcup were cut off in February after an attempted cable theft, again in Hatherley Road.

Anyone with any information on the recent attempted theft should call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or visit crimestoppers-uk.org