I had left early the night before so as I drove onto the forecourt on a Sunday morning and saw a space in my used car display I thought ‘ Great’ they’ve sold one for me, the car that was missing was a very nice low mileage Mitsubishi Shogun Diesel. But as I walked past the empty space on my way to the office I saw a door lock lying on the floor and it dawned on me that my car had been stolen.

My pitch was covered by 3 CCTV cameras and I had made sure that there were no blind spots when I had installed them, I also fitted a Stop Lock professional crook lock to each vehicle, they were made out of high tensile steel and locked onto the steering wheel, I kept the car keys and stop lock keys in separate safes in separate buildings you could say that I am a pretty cautious sought of guy, but then I was in the second year of running my own business and I had managed to get my trader’s policy reduced from £7500 to £4300.

Already that year I had absorbed the costs of several vandal attacks I think 1, in particular, had cost me £700 on its own, I blame the England Football Team for that one as they had played even worse than usual in a World Cup qualifier, this had annoyed the local yobbos and they decided to pick on something that couldn’t fight back throwing a brick at the cars destroying a bonnet on one car and a door on another.

The fact was that if I had claimed for every incident that had happened previously I would already be uninsurable, I have to say that I have total respect for the job the Police have to do but our local Bobbies had shown little interest and had been of no use whatsoever often they wouldn’t come out for days after a vandal attack by which time any forensic evidence had long gone, I had even stopped reporting things to them as I had amassed more Victim Support pamphlets than the printers.

I watched the CCTV footage and saw a Vauxhall Astra Van with 2 occupants reverse onto the forecourt, it wasn’t even dark, people were walking past but the thieves just carried on oblivious to anyone, They jemmied the door lock out in seconds got inside the car and it took them a further 5 minutes to remove the stop lock pro and the steering lock and drive off.

This was serious I knew it could put me out of business so this time I rang the Police and reported the incident I explained that I had CCTV footage and some forensic evidence and that although I couldn’t read the registration plate on the car I was sure that the Police had software that would enable them to, also we needed to act quickly to catch the thieves before they disposed of my vehicle, I also explained that I was going on holiday to Cyprus on the Thursday, the operator said she would get someone to attend as soon as possible, I knew what that meant.

Monday is the deadline for placing an advert to appear in Thursdays Autotrader and the Police still hadn’t been to see me, so I brought the picture of my Shogun up on my computer and proceeded to photoshop ‘REWARD’ in big yellow letters across it, I wrote out my description of the car and put a link to my web page showing every detail and about 20 pictures of the car, it was very distinctive having bull bars, side steps, light guards, roof rack, wooden steering wheel, etc.

Wednesday night and I was leaving for Cyprus early the next morning still the Police hadn’t been to see me, I rang them again, I had made a DVD of the CCTV footage for them and I was really annoyed that they hadn’t been to take my statement, I was now losing my patience and made an irate call to Police HQ this time and an officer came to my house at 10.00pm, he took my statement but told me that DVD would probably serve no purpose as it was very expensive to get the picture enhanced and it probably wouldn’t be done. The Shogun had a retail price of £3495 and a trade price of £2500, I would probably get paid the trade price from the insurance company but my no claims bonus would be out of the window.

A couple of days later the Autotrader magazine was now in circulation and I was sunbathing by the pool of our hotel in Pathos when my mobile phone rang, the guy on the phone asked about the reward and told me he had been at a scrapyard in a town about 30 miles away from my garage and he had seen 2 guys dismantling a Shogun, roof rack, bull bars, etc, and they were taking the bits off the car outside in the yard. He described things about the car that hadn’t appeared in the advert and I knew instantly that it was indeed my car that he had seen.

I immediately rang the Police and gave them the address of the scrapyard, from what I could gather this was the chain of events that followed, our local Police station contacted another station closer to the scrap yard and they sent out an officer who I am sorry to say will never ever make detective, apparently, he went and asked them if they had seen anyone dismantling a Shogun in their yard and they said ‘No’ that I’m afraid seemed to be the extent of the investigation.

I was absolutely furious and rang the Police Officer to complain, he said and I quote “Look mate you have no chance of getting your car back, and it’s a waste of our time” I thought the very least they should have done was arrest the owner and waterboard him till he cracked, the evidence now pointed to the car being broken up and sold for spares my chances of recovering it were virtually zero, this, however, didn’t mean that I couldn’t still make things very uncomfortable for the owner of the scrap yard so that night after drinking a few pints of Keo Lager I hatched a plan of revenge which I would put into action on my return from holiday.

I printed off and laminated 50 copies of my Reward poster, at the time I owned a Basalt Black Porsche 911 C2 cabriolet, I put my best black suit on, Ray-Bans and set off to stake out the scrap yard, now I watch a lot of cop shows and I consider myself to be an amateur expert on covert surveillance however I decided I hadn’t got the time for this so I adopted the exact opposite of low profile, the scrapyard was on an Industrial estate with another 6 or 7 business and after fastening the laminated posters to the gates of the scrapyard, every lamp post, telegraph pole and leaving copies in the windows of the local shops I then visited every other business on the industrial estate.

The rest of the morning I sat directly opposite in my Porsche with the hood down making sure that they could see me taking note of everyone who came and went, listing each registration number, and taking pictures for added effect, to my surprise no one came across to ask me what I was doing, in my mind, this was an admission of guilt.

Next morning I was there again bright and early to watch the comings and goings, in the afternoon my mobile rang with a caller blocked number, the caller who had an Irish accent said that he was in a pub with his mate, they were browsing the Autotrader ( which would now have been a week out of date) they had recognised my stolen Shogun from the picture and it was parked outside, the guy on the phone was no rocket scientist and I suspected that I was, in fact, talking to the guy who had stolen the Shogun, the vehicle was now too hot to handle and he wanted to be rid, I arranged to meet them and they said they would keep an eye on the car.

About ¼ of a mile up the road from the pub I spotted a white Astra Van in a lay-by like the one I had seen on my CCTV, I pulled over and had a good look round it, the first thing I spotted was it had no road tax and there were various (Equipped to commit) tools on the passenger floor convinced that this was the thieves vehicle I photographed it, wrote the registration number down and also committed it to memory.

At this point I knew that I could be on my way to a very unpleasant meeting, were they really going to give me the car back or was I going to be on the receiving end of a rather unpleasant warning to leave well alone, It was a chance I had to take as I couldn’t afford to lose the car or claim on my insurance, their only motive for returning the car was the reward otherwise they would probably have just torched it.

I rang my friend and asked him to come over as back up when he arrived we drove past the pub for a reccy there were no cars on the pub car park but directly across the road was a Shogun if it was my car I would never have recognised it, the bottom half of it had now been sprayed silver and it had none of the distinguishing features that it had had before.

My plan was that my friend would sit outside the pub in another car, I gave him my camera and instructed him to take pictures as they came out with me, I wanted him to get me on film handing them the reward, he also had a mobile with the numbers 999 keyed in so all that was left to do was press send, I must add at this point my friend was no rocket scientist either so if I was getting a good hiding I needed him to have to press as few buttons as possible to summon assistance.

Satisfied that there was no one in the immediate vicinity waiting to ambush me I took a deep breath and walked into the pub I held my phone to my ear I was pretending to be in the middle of a call but had it switched to video sweeping the room I saw 2 scumbags sat in the corner with a copy of Autotrader on the table the only other person in there was the barmaid.

Making sure that I had got them on camera I walked over and sat down placed my phone on the table and left it recording, just how they had been watching the car was beyond me as it was impossible to see from where they were, one of the guys was about 6ft 0in and fairly slim and the other about 5 ft 8in and stocky the conversation soon got round to the reward and I asked to see the car, we walked across the road and I played dumb.

I’m afraid that’s not my car I said, it doesn’t even have a wooden steering wheel, “They must have broken it when it was stolen” the taller guy said I got the V55 out of my pocket and checked the chassis number under the rear wheel arch, nope it’s a completely different chassis number, again the taller guy said “it is they’ve changed the chassis number” and he bent down and scraped away the new under seal to reveal a plate welded over the top.

It was time to call their bluff with one of my own, I turned to face them and shrugged my shoulders,

“ Look let’s stop kidding each other, I know you guys stole it, I have you on CCTV, you were in a Van with the registration number ####### and if you expect me to give you a reward for returning it to me you’re in for a big disappointment, it was only a matter of time before the Police arrested you, now F### Off before I ring them.” 

My registration number bluff worked because they went even paler than they already were, they made no attempt to protest their innocence and sloped off cursing me.

Feeling quite proud of my achievement I rang the Police officer I had spoken to before and said “Remember the car that I had no chance of getting back? Well, I’ve got it back! and I’m just about to take possession and drive it home’, thanks for nothing!!!!! “, I was really ringing just to gloat but also I didn’t want to take the chance that Columbo had been transferred to the Walton Le Dale Police force and that I would get arrested on the way home for stealing my own vehicle.

On reflection winding the Police Officer up wasn’t the brightest thing I had ever done and to my surprise, the officer told me in no uncertain terms that I couldn’t touch the car until forensics had inspected it and dusted it for fingerprints, this really peed me off and I told him that I didn’t need fingerprints as I knew who had stolen it, and had even got pictures of them, the officer never took me up on this but assured me that I could face serious consequences if I took my own vehicle as I would be “Interfering in a Criminal Investigation”, also the vehicle would probably need to be used in evidence at any future trial so I wouldn’t be able to sell it either if they managed to gather enough evidence to prosecute.

The Shogun was picked up about 2 hours later by a recovery vehicle even though I had the keys to drive it, I got it back a few weeks later no evidence was found in it and I was in a catch 22 situation, the Police never asked me how I had managed to get the Shogun back, and I couldn’t volunteer any information as It would mean that I would again be made to suffer financially.

To add insult to injury I was presented with a £185 bill off the recovery firm who the Police had sent to pick up the car.