Three classic roadsters, all dark blue, all stolen from within a mile of each other and each taken at the beginning of consecutive months. But in spite of significant outward similarities in these three cases, a lack of police investigation has compounded fears that car thieves increasingly have carte blanche to do as they please without any fear of repercussion.
In our November 14 issue, we reported on how Kay Pinnock’s 1971 MGB was stolen from outside her house in South London at the beginning of November. Fortunately Kay’s car was discovered safe and well by a local builder, but others in her area haven’t been so fortunate.
At the beginning of September, Stephen and Jan Turvil had the 1965 MkI Sunbeam Tiger they’d owned for 18 years stolen. The rare roadster was taken from their London home from under their noses late on a Saturday night, despite teenagers going in and out of the building regularly. It is thought the car was pushed away without being started, as the Tiger’s V8 is characteristically loud and not the easiest to fire up.
The case was reported to the police as soon as Stephen realised the car had gone, but it closed the case within 24 hours citing a lack of evidence. “No one has contacted us at all,” Jan explained. “The most supportive and pro-active people in all of this have been the owners clubs. We had a friend call us and say they’d seen the car just around the corner, but it turned out to be an MGB. And then lo and behold, that one went and got stolen too.”
That MGB belonged to Emma Reed, and was stolen in broad daylight almost a month to the day after the Sunbeam, at the beginning of October. Emma had saved for many years to buy the car, learning to weld on it and rebuilding the electrics.
Although a last-of-the-line example wearing an X-registration, the car had been given the retro treatment with a chrome bumper conversion, and to an untrained eye was very close visually to the Tiger. “It was parked on the street outside my house and taken during the time I left for work and the time I arrived back,” Emma explained. “It was reported in the morning and the case was closed by teatime because of a lack of evidence. That was short-sighted, to put it kindly.”
Both cars had yet to be found by the time Kay Pinnock’s MGB was stolen, which was taken at the beginning of third consecutive month on November 1, from within a mile of the other two. CCTV footage from her house revealed the car was taken in broad daylight on a busy street, with the brazen nature of theft widely shared on social media and by the press. Kay had become frustrated with a lack of police investigation, and when the car was found after just over a week, it was down to a member of the public rather than the authorities.
Police were able to identify one of the men involved from Kay’s CCTV footage, but despite making two visits to his house, had not managed to make contact. With the car now found, the case has ground to a halt.
The similarities in the cases led to the owners making contact with each other outside of any police intervention, but their subsequent appeals have been in vain. “The police utterly refused to link the cases,” said Stephen. “I think they want to close them. They said there’s no evidence to connect them, but there’s circumstantial evidence – the type of vehicle, the methods and the locations. That’s got to be evidence of some sort, but they’re refusing to investigate. The fact they know the guy who stole Kay’s car just seems amazing they’re not making more of an effort to arrest him.”
“If someone had a little bit nous and could piece it together, they could see the similarities in the cases,” added Jan. “But there is no way to make our case to the police so they can follow it up further. We feel so on our own with this.”
These South London cases are reflective of a wider problem. Car theft in the UK is back on the rise, and of the 27 police forces in England and Wales that recently supplied data about car thefts, all of them had seen car thefts increase in 2017/18 compared to 2016/17.
The rise in theft is partially being blamed on thieves accessing or cloning keys to steal newer cars. But that’s not the case with classics, so how much of it is down to police simply being too stretched to devote proper resources to investigating car crime? RAC insurance spokesman Simon Williams said: “We do have a concern that the declining number of police officers could be resulting in less investigation of motor crime like this, something that could be solved by forces having greater resources at a time when car crime is on the up.”
The key issue is that, with little no investigation likely to be made into their crimes, thieves no longer have any fear of being caught and punished. “There’s a huge swathe of crime that is totally not investigated because nobody has got the time and resources,” said Jan. “As long as it doesn’t cross the line of becoming violent or endangering people, then I think they just let it go. It’s the green flag to low-level crime.”
We can only speculate as to why these classics are being stolen of course. Are the thefts being commissioned with specific requirements? Are they being broken for spares, or maybe sent abroad? Certainly stealing a car as rare a MkI Tiger seems very odd, surely making it too hot to handle as a whole or in parts. Rarity or exclusivity seems to be no bar for thieves though, with the 64th Series 2 Land Rover off the line was stolen from owner Julian Shoolheifer in Essex within the last fortnight.
As always, our advice would be avoid complacency and invest in a good quality tracker to significantly increase the chance of the vehicle being recovered should the worst happen. Classic cars on out streets are a wonderful part of our nation’s heritage, and it would be a tremendous shame if our landscape has to be lost because of the actions of selfish criminals.