Brazen thieves strip school's minibus for parts in 'car cannibalism' that left pupils late for GCSE exam

25 June 2023, 14:53

CCTV caught the thieves in the act
CCTV caught the thieves in the act. Picture: Supplied

By Fraser Knight

Video footage shows despicable criminals stripping a minibus for school pupils of all its front parts in broad daylight - forcing them to miss a GCSE exam's start.

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After LBC revealed concerns of a crime trend dubbed "car cannibalism" spreading to new parts of the country, brazen thieves have now been caught targeting a school in County Durham.

CCTV filmed two masked men spending three hours disassembling the entire front half of a minibus used to get children to classes.

They left with the bonnet, radiator and headlights, before also stealing a student's bike.

UTC South Durham, in Newton Aycliffe, called out the "despicable" nature of the crime, which left some children unable to get to a GCSE exam on time.

Head teacher Tom Bower told LBC: "It's deeply disrespectful, the fact it's been aimed at a minibus designed to get students to their place of education, especially after they've missed out on so much over the past few years.

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Thieves cannibalise minibus

"It was done in such a completely brazen way with no thought for others. It makes me very angry."

Durham Constabulary is investigating the theft, which is thought to have happened on Sunday 18 June.

A source in the police force says they're concerned about the report – given evidence of it becoming a trend in other areas that officers have struggled to get on top of.

In other cases, thieves have avoided detection by working in the night and in areas not covered by CCTV.

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But the theft in County Durham was all caught on camera in extraordinary detail.

The footage shows sparks flying as an angle grinder is used to strip the parts from the minibus, before the two men also steal a student's bike which had been left chained up over the weekend.

Mr Bower went on: "It concerns me that this has come to the area – it was clearly carefully planned and targeted with all the right equipment.

The thieves cannibalised a vehicle
The thieves cannibalised a vehicle. Picture: Supplied

"I guess the price of car parts and the unavailability of minibuses just now which is a really critical thing for all schools and colleges is a real challenge and that's probably why these parts were targeted."

Can cannibalism has been a recurring problem for years in parts of Yorkshire and the Midlands.

But last year, a spate of incidents were reported across Scotland's Central Belt in the space of a few weeks.

Victoria Greenwood, from Livingston, told LBC she'd left her car in a train station car park before heading to Glasgow for a night out on 24 September 2022.

She returned to find not only her car, but another one alongside it, had been targeted by thieves.

Victoria told us: "I think to start with we thought it had been bashed, like the whole front end had been caved in, but as we got closer we realised there was actually nothing there.

"It was strange, there was glass all over the floor, nuts and bolts lying around and the holders that hold the bonnet up were both sticking up where they'd lifted the bonnet off. It just looked so weird."

Meanwhile, a pensioner in Tamworth, near Birmingham, had his car targeted twice in a year while it was parked outside his home.

David Moreton, 79, is said to have lost his sense of confidence after the criminals left him shaken.

His daughter Amanda told LBC: "Mentally for him it's been quite draining, they've completely wrecked him. He's not the same bloke that he was, he's quite down now, really.

"They don't care about anybody's feelings, they just care about what they can get."

A dedicated car crime taskforce was set up in the West Midlands in an attempt to investigate and crack down on vehicle-related crime.

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