Brazen ‘car cannibal’ thieves are terrorising motorists in a British city, stripping parked vehicles for parts, traumatising owners.
A crimewave has gripped Birmingham city centre, with a ‘professional’ gang of criminals running rampant, ripping cars to pieces in Digbeth.
In January alone, nine separate cars were targeted in the city centre district- with the BBC reporting a further three having taken place last year.
Among the victims included a nurse who was working on a nightshift and a music-lover whose car was ripped apart while she attended a concert.
Now motorists have been coming forward in their droves, with some demanding action to clampdown on the spate of vehicle crime blighting Birmingham.
A woman was left ‘devastated’ after so-called car cannibals stripped the bumper, bonnet and lights from her Citroen C1 in just two hours while she was at a gig
Business owner Paul Hampton and his partner Jacqui Heeley were rudely awoken just before 5am yesterday when his neighbour told them to ‘take a look at their car’
One of the victims, Charaya White, described how the ordeal had brought on a panic attack when she discovered parts of her Citroen C1 had been scavenged at the New Canal Street car park in May 2022.
Speaking to the BBC, Ms White said: ‘Initially I thought my car had been hit by someone in the car park.
‘I literally just broke down… I just went into a state of shock.’
Ms White came forward after hearing the story of Rebecca Scotland, last month, who described how her Citroen C1 had been left undriveable after parts were professionally removed in the same car park.
The 27-year-old had been to see Nina Nesbitt at the O2 Academy with partner Tony Lincoln when the vandals struck, smashing the passenger window so they could open the bonnet and leaving her number plate behind.
She said: ‘I just broke down, I’ve never been so distressed in my life. That was the first time I’d driven to Birmingham and I was quite pleased I had done the drive.
‘It looked like it had been done very professionally, nothing had been snapped and they knew what they were doing.
‘I’m traumatised by it. I will always be worried about leaving my car now, even on my own front doorstep. It’s left me shaken and feeling violated.’
Now Rebecca is warning others to be careful after hearing of similar cases in the city
Rebecca Scotland said her car was left undriveable after parts were professionally removed as she left it in a Birmingham car park
Nurse Samantha Rose was another victim of the thieves, who targeted her car at 2am on January 30 as she worked a night shift at Barberry Mental Health Centre.
To add to her misery, police told her they can’t investigate unless there is clear CCTV of the crime as it happened.
‘I am a nurse and I have been on nights all week – this was my first night back,’ she told the Metro.
‘I called the police as soon as it happened but the only correspondence I have had is a text message saying that unless I had clear CCTV footage then the case would be logged and closed.
‘I am just so gutted, I cannot believe people would do this. My neighbour’s vehicle was stripped on Thursday night, and his dad’s car was broken into on Friday night – all in Water Mill Close.
‘I fully understand the police have more serious crimes to attend to, but maybe if they came out when called they would have a better chance of catching the people doing this.’
‘Car cannibalism’ often sees thieves breaking in through a window to remove the bonnet, bumper and headlights – leaving the engine exposed.
In December, thieves managed to write off a £16,500 Mercedes after ripping off its doors, bonnet, boot, wheels and seats while the car’s owners slept in their home just feet away,
Business owner Paul Hampton, 56, and his partner Jacqui Heeley, 54, were woken at 5am after a neighbour told them to ‘take a look at their car’, parked outside their home in West Bromwich, West Midlands.
Mr Hampton with his car, now written off by their insurance company following the £14,000 worth of damage
Mr Hampton was stunned to see his 2018 C-Class AMG was stripped bare when he looked out the window of his home this morning at 5am yesterday
Thinking it had been ‘smashed up’ Mr Hampton was stunned when he discovered that his 2018 C-Class AMG had been methodically stripped bare for parts by thieves.
The safe company owner, whose car was fitted with a tracker to avoid theft, found both driver and passenger doors missing, along with both front seats and all four wheels, leaving the car stood on bricks.
Mr Hampton said: ‘When I stepped outside the front door, I just couldn’t believe what I was seeing. They hadn’t damaged any panels, it’s just been stripped bare.
‘These are professionals and appear to work in teams of five or six to cut the time down.
‘Each person has their own job. They didn’t just cut the wires in the doors, they unclipped the connectors to avoid damaging it. They’ve left the remaining parts in perfect condition.
‘They didn’t leave any fingerprints because they’d worn latex gloves and it probably didn’t take them long to get everything off as they’re not your average car thieves.
‘We’ve spoken to some mechanic friends and they believe they wanted the bumper and lights because there’s a sensor inside them which makes them worth £1,000.
‘They must have been disturbed before that happened though because they only managed to get the registration plates off. More could have been taken.’
Mr Hampton and Ms Heeley have had the two-door coupe since April 2018 on hire purchase and it was due to be worth £16,500 at the end of March 2021.
However, the damage done is worth at least £14,000 leaving the car written off by their insurance company.
The Mercedes was left standing on bricks after thieves stripped off all four wheels along with the doors, bonnet, boot, wheels and seats
Mr Hampton said: ‘This is my fifth Mercedes, I’ve had them for the last 15 years. I’ve never had anything like this happen before.
‘It almost puts me off getting another one. I’d be better just having a £500 banger on the drive for them to steal.
‘I just want people to be aware this is happening. I could have done things like put the car around the back of the house but I think they’d have still done what they did.’
The BBC investigation revealed other victims who had been hit by the thieves.
Meg Matthews, 21, from Stourbridge, had her Vauxhall Corsa stripped in October 2022 while it was parked in the New Canal Street car park.
Ms Matthews said: ‘I sat down and shut my door, I heard glass shatter, looked to the side of me and my window was completely smashed,’ Ms Matthews said.
‘That’s when I looked forward and realised my bonnet was missing.’
She added she was ‘terrified’ after discovering the theft and said she ‘couldn’t move’.
‘I was then stuck in my car for at least half an hour until my friend could actually come and get me,’ she said.
Another motorist called Caleb, who is a student from Coventry, also reportedly fell victim to car cannibals in the same car park, who stripped his partner’s Toyota Yaris while he attended a concert nearby in November.
West Midlands Police said an 18-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of theft in January, but bailed with conditions while inquires continue.
A spokesperson for the force told the BBC said: ‘We’ve stepped up patrols around car parks in Digbeth after a number of vehicles have been stripped of parts.
‘We received nine reports during January and we know the inconvenience and frustration this causes for car owners.’
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