The brazen theft of an MG from outside the owner’s home in broad daylight has raised wider concerns over stretched police resources and what appears to be an epidemic of stolen classics.
In a case that carried the hallmarks of a commissioned theft, MG Owners’ Club member Kay Pinnock returned home from work late on Thursday, November 1 to find that the beloved 1971 MGB she’s owned for 45 years had gone missing from the busy street outside her residence in south London. The 65-year-old was astonished when she examined CCTV footage to discover the thieves had used a red Hyundai to push the car down the busy street, later establishing that it had been placed onto the back of a yellow low loader lorry before being driven away.
Fortunately, Kay’s heartache turned out to be short-lived. Just as we went to press, the car had been found in Biggin Hill, Kent. But it was the nature of this theft – and the window it has opened on the gloomy world of classic car theft – that will leave a bitter taste in the mouth for fellow owners.
CCTV footage showed that two men had been loitering in the area for 10 minutes prior to taking the MGB, which Kay bought when she was just 20. Affectionately known as ‘TiMM’ in reference to the TMM letters on its number plate, the car has been a labour of love. Over the years its engine has been race-tuned and it’s been reshelled with a Heritage body, with a change in colour from orange to black and a more retro ’60s look. Even so, Kay describes the car as quite scruffy, and is baffled as to why it was stolen when there were far more valuable cars parked on the same street.
STOLEN TO ORDER?
It’s reckoned that the tuned engine could have initially altered the thieves to the car, which was then stolen to order. “You know it’s not an average MGB when you hear it,” Kay explained to us. “The police say someone has probably followed me who liked the sound of it, and then commissioned its theft. I only work two days a week and it can’t be a coincidence they only came about half an hour after I left – they even parked in the space that I had vacated.”
In the past Kay has been offered garages to store the car in, but had parked the MG on the street since 1981 without any trouble. “I’ve always taken the view that I can keep an eye on it outside my house. It has an immobiliser on it, and it’s not a fancy MGB. I never, in a million years, thought it was going to be stolen. It was only when a friend who comes on runs with me suggested having CCTV on the car, and so we saw a deal and he came and put it up for me. I should have put a tracker on – it was on my to-do list but it just wasn’t done.”
The MGB was missing for over a week, understandably leaving Kay bereft and unable to concentrate on anything else. She uses the B to meet up with friends by going on different runs all over the country, where she’s often the only female owner-driver. Thankfully, those experiences that Kay feared would be lost can now resume.
Desperate to find her car, Kay printed flyers and even had T-shirts made. Pics of the theft were shared by friends on social media, and effectively went ‘viral’ as they spread far and wide. The story was even picked up by a national broadsheet newspaper.
The car was found completely by chance, however. Kay received a text from a builder who was working in Biggin Hill asking if she’d lost a car, with a photo attached that showed an MGB minus its number plates. “From some paintwork blemishes under the door I knew it was TiMM,” Kay explained. “I rang the number and the location was provided. The car had been noticed with no plates (they were inside the car), the window open and hotwired. He checked the DVLA and saw it was taxed and MoT’d for a year, so he knew it hadn’t been dumped. The boot was unlocked and he found a receipt for parts which had my mobile number on it.”
It’s perhaps concerning that the car was found by a member of the public rather than the authorities. From the CCTV footage the police had been able to identify the older of the two men, who was known to them for similar crimes, but had only made two unsuccessful drive-by visits to his house.
“The individual people I spoke to at the station were so nice and helpful, but they are so stretched,” said Kay. “Having spoken to people I am aware that there have been a number of classic cars stolen from south London recently, including another MG and a Sunbeam, and those cases have been closed without any resolution. I really don’t want another person to be robbed, and as they have the identity of one of the people involved, I really feel they should be doing more.”
We’ve known of cars getting stolen in broad daylight before. In July we reported on the case of Noah Robinson’s Mini being stolen from his driveway midafternoon, but for a theft to be as blatant as it was in this case, with the thieves making no attempt to disguise themselves, is particularly shocking.
“If there has to be a strapline, everybody who has seen it, the first word on their lips is brazen – people were walking by when the car was being stolen,” said Kay. “They clearly didn’t know there’s CCTV, so they’re idiots because the cameras are quite clearly on my house. Either that or they knew the cameras were there, and just didn’t care.”
It’s this point that is the most alarming. Have thieves become so prolific that they have also become nonchalant? Figures from the Daily Telegraph in October revealed that more than 27 rare classic cars have been reported stolen within the last month, and unlike in Kay’s case, none of them have been found.
In recent weeks we’ve also heard of an Opel Manta stolen in the Midlands, and a Mini taken from Kent. Not a day seems to go by without another classic going missing.
Does this mean that all classics will have to be locked out of sight, and the sight of classic cars on our streets will become a thing of the past? We can only hope not. Our advice would be to invest in a good quality tracker to significantly increase the chance of the vehicle being recovered should the worst happen. Thankfully Kay could be reunited with her beloved MGB, but it’s a case that serves as a stark warning to classic car owners everywhere.