September 15, 2008

‘Brazen’ Thief Steals Cars in Test Drive Scam

By Alan Mcewen

POLICE are hunting a second-hand car thief who struck four times in a week in the Lothians by racing off after a test drive.

The thief conned the owners into believing they were about to make a sale before driving away at high speed when left alone in the car.

Three Volkswagen Golfs and a Ford Focus have been stolen and police fear the "brazen" thief will strike again.

Victims were left shocked as they watched their cars being driven off by the suspect, who they said was "very persuasive and believable".

His first target lived in Penicuik, Midlothian and he made off in the owner's Ford Focus at around 6pm last Saturday.

He struck again in Midlothian, in Eskbank at around 5pm on Tuesday and Newton Village, near Danderhall, at 3pm on Wednesday.

The latest theft took place in Balerno at around 8pm on Thursday.

On each of the last three occasions, he made off in a Volkswagen Golf.

Detective Sergeant James Lackie, from Lothian and Borders' stolen vehicles squad, is leading the hunt for the car thief. He said: "The sellers were advertising their cars in motoring publications or websites. After contacting them by phone and arranging a visit, the thief has gone out on test drives with the seller.

"Each time, he has waited until the owner gets out of the vehicle before asking for the keys to inspect the car more closely, such as checking the electric windows work. He then drives off at very high speeds leaving the victim shocked and distressed.

"This has happened four times in less than a week and we have concerns that he may strike again.

"The victims have described him as very persuasive and believable, who convinced them he was likely to buy the vehicle and displayed a good knowledge of cars."

Police believe the thief will fit false licence plates on to the stolen cars, which were all between two and eight years old.

The suspect is described as white, around 30, 5ft 11in, heavy build, with short dark hair, smartly dressed, and with a local accent.

Originally published by Alan Mcewen Crime Reporter.

(c) 2008 Evening News; Edinburgh (UK). Provided by ProQuest LLC. All rights Reserved.