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The curious case of the ‘Vauxhall cannibals’ sweeping Bedfordshire

Published: 02 July 2015

► Vauxhall parts crimewave hits Bedfordshire
► Thieves nicknamed ‘Vauxhall cannibals’
► Astra and Corsa bodywork panels targeted

It’s like a lost episode from an alternative Sherlock Holmes’ casebook. In and around Bedfordshire, a sleepy county in middle England, an organised gang of thieves is casually stripping Vauxhalls of their components as their owners sleep.

Extraordinarily, Bedfordshire Police report more than 500 offences in which parts have been taken from Astras and Corsas since August 2013. The bizarre Griffin-cannibalisation crimewave was reported to the wider world by the BBC television programme Crimewatch Roadshow on 1 July 2015.

The thefts range from a simple numberplate or bumper being stolen through to cars being virtually stripped bare. In 150 cases the cars had been depleted to such an extent that they had to be written off.

Why are Vauxhalls being cannibalised?

Looked at rationally, there are an exceptionally large proportion of Vauxhall vehicles in Bedfordshire owing to the firm’s HQ in Luton, itself an area with a higher-than-average crime rate. The majority of components taken are body panels. Police officers believe they are being sold on the bodywork repair market to replace crash damage.

Worryingly, the trend is on the up. Since April 2015 there have been five to 10 reports of Vauxhall scavenging every week - and there are recently reports from further afield in neighbouring Northamptonshire, too.

Most incidents have occurred in residential areas and on garage forecourts, with many of the crimes reported to have taken place between 2.00 and 4.00am in the morning. CCTV footage captured of one incident shows a pair of thieves nonchalantly and unhurriedly dismembering one unlucky Corsa’s body panels on an exposed residential street. So if you’re a Vauxhall owner in the south-east Midlands, the unfortunate news is that you may need to sleep with one eye open...

By James Taylor

CAR's deputy features editor, automotive design graduate, Radical champ

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