CATALYTIC converter thieves struck while a mum was out shopping – leaving her with a £1,000 bill or the prospect of having her car written off.
Nellie Pitts returned to her Honda CR-V from Hobbycraft in St Margaret’s Retail Park to find “it sounded like a tractor” when she turned the key. She had spent just half an hour in the shop.
She drove the 2005-reg sport utility vehicle to the Bell Silencer garage in Old Town, where she was told she had been the victim of a theft that has rocketed across the UK in lockdown.
“I was shocked I couldn’t quite believe what had happened because it was so quick and so brazen that someone could just go along and steal something like that without two thoughts,” said Nellie.
“When I got to the garage they showed me what had happened and with bolt cutters my catalytic converter had been removed. They explained to me it’s a common occurrence at the moment. They just get a trolley jack, bolt cutters and it could be gone in a matter of minutes.
“It’s going to cost £1,000 to fix it, which I don’t have, and I spoke to my insurance company and they said they were going to write it off because it’s not worth that much but I can’t afford to buy a new car, I’m going to have to get it fixed somehow.”
Not having a car has made it difficult for Nellie to make surgery appointments and to take her children to college and work.
She said: “I’ve had to walk to the doctors to get an injection in my knee for arthritis, it’s not far but getting that injection makes it difficult ,so walking back is painful.
“My two boys need ferrying to college, Cadets and work and obviously I can’t do that now. There’s no second thought for repercussions of their actions.
“They may get some money for it but they don’t consider it’s totally ruined my life for the foreseeable future.”
A catalytic converter makes up part of the exhaust system/. It processes the emissions from a combustion engine into less harmful gases. As the exhaust is exposed beneath most cars, they’re often easy picking for thieves.
New figures have revealed a “huge increase” in the number of catalytic converter thefts across the UK since June.
The latest investigation by insurance giant Admiral revealed that thieves stealing the precious metals found in those fitted to some cars were selling them on for a profit.
Wiltshire Police have advised drivers to park in their garage or in well-lit and populated areas to avoid this from happening to them.
The force also suggested parking cars with the exhaust close to fences or walls to make the theft more difficult.
Drivers can ask to have their bolts welded on their catalytic converter so it’s harder to take. A cage clamp can also be added.
And police have urged people to report it if they see anyone acting suspiciously under a vehicle – providing as much information as possible, including the registration number.
A Wiltshire Police spokesman said: “Due to the lack of witnesses and evidence at this time, this incident has been classed as undetected. However, we will revisit the case if new evidence comes to light.
“We would like to appeal for any witnesses to this theft.”
Anyone who may have seen something should call 101.