Sidmouth ‘cat’ thieves threatened Christmas dinners

Pricey parts nicked from delivery vehicles

THIEVES nearly put the skids under scores of festive food deliveries when they left supermarket dispatch vehicles stricken by stealing pricey metal parts.

Criminals left a trio of Waitrose vans out of action just days before Christmas when they unbolted and made off with their catalytic converters.

Bosses at the Stowford Rise store this week thanked a mechanic who came to their rescue – and said they’ve revised security at the site.

The three delivery vans were left in the store’s car park when culprits struck overnight between Monday, December 19, and Tuesday, December 20. Police said the converters, valuable due to precious platinum inside, were valued at a total of �2,400.

“It’s the first time we experienced anything like this,” said Waitrose manager Mark Shepherd.

“We work really hard with police to help reduce crime. To hear this had happened was disappointing.”

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Mr Shepherd praised the store’s delivery team, and Musbury Garage owner Julian Rinaldi, for ensuring no customers were let down as a result of the crime. Every drop-off was made over the busy yuletide period.

“Julian was an absolute star, provided us with loan vans within hours, and helped us get the three vehicles back on the road,” said Mr Shepherd. “We’ve re-looked at all of our security so we don’t find ourselves in that situation again.”

The incident wasn’t the first time this year thieves targeted Sidmouth while on the prowl for the parts. Charity minibuses belonging to Sidmouth Living with Cancer and Sidmouth Voluntary Services fell victim to a spate of thefts in March.

Sergeant Andy Turner said the converters could have been smuggled abroad.

He added thefts across the region had rocketed after the price of scrap metal soared.

Criminals sell the converters to unscrupulous brokers who break them down.