Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Police tell car theft victim: 'We've found your van... but it's too dangerous to get it back from traveller camp'

When a market trader was told by police his stolen Mercedes van had been found, he was overjoyed.

But Christopher Sims was amazed when an officer said it had been located in a ‘no-go’ on a notorious travellers caravan site.

A police officer explained they were unable to retrieve his £1,000 vehicle - which had £1,000 worth of goods inside - because it would mean a major operation which would put officers' lives at risk.

One officer accidentally let slip that the van is on a travellers site, The Willows, at Sandhurst, near Gloucester.

The father-of-three said: 'She told me it is a very dangerous and volatile place for the police to go.

'She said they would have to mount a huge operation with armed officers, dogs and helicopters and it would never be authorised by senior officers for the sake of a van worth £1,000 with another £1,000 worth of contents inside it.

'I think it's disgusting. It's one law for them and one for us. I feel so frustrated and angry.'

Mr Sims, of Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, was visited by two officers 24 hours after reporting the vehicle stolen on February 12.

He said his jaw dropped when they told him they had an idea who might have stolen it but could not take any action.

‘They said they were sympathetic but said that because of the situation they couldn’t risk putting officers’ lives at risk,’ he said.

‘One of the officers said it was not a “no-go” area, but if they did go they would have to go in mob-handed.’

Mr Sims, who uses his van for taking goods between car boot sales, said ‘shifty looking’ strangers had approached him three times offering to buy the vehicle before it was stolen.

On the second occasion, he said, he noted down the registration number of their Transit van.

‘The one guy was right in my face waving a wad of cash and saying they wanted my van for spare parts,’ Mr Sims said.

When his van disappeared he immediately told police about his mysterious visitors and handed over the details.

‘Then the next evening I get a visit from these two officers,’ he said.

‘They sat me down and told me they have checked out the registration number and it is registered to someone known to the police.

‘But they say they can’t go there without organising a proper operation. They said it was dangerous.’

Mr Sims said he was later called on by two more officers who promised him they were looking into the case properly.

Yesterday, he said, he was visited by a ‘rookie’ WPC who let slip to him that the van is believed to be at the Willows site.

‘She very proudly told me that she has walked round there three times on her own without any trouble,’ Mr Sims said.

‘Well, if that's the case, why can't they go and make enquiries there about my van and arrest the people responsible?

‘It makes me laugh that the police have put out appeals recently for information about someone having a stone thrown at their car or a banner being stolen from outside an office yet they won't do anything about me having my livelihood stolen.

‘Direct Line have told me my policy does not cover me for theft so it looks like I have lost everything just because the police won't help me,’ he added.

A Gloucestershire police spokesman denied today that the force has ‘no-go’ areas and issued statement, stating: ‘There is currently an ongoing investigation into the theft of a white Mercedes panel van.

‘All reports of vehicle thefts are taken very seriously and this incident is being investigated thoroughly.

‘We would like to make it very clear that we do not classify any areas as “no-go zones” and that we follow all leads of enquiry appropriate to our investigation.

Daily Mail

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