Series looking at burglary - its culprits, its victims and the police. In this episode, an eagle-eyed witness comes to the rescue when a marching band has their van stolen.
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'Teams of police are fighting a rise in burglaries across the UK.'
He left his phone.
My Timberlands have gone!
Oh, for God's sake!
The people that do this are professionals.
This is what they do for a living.
'Specialist units working with the latest technology...
'..and the community-minded among us...'
I wondered if you heard anything.
'..to track down the thieves...'
Hold it right there! Stop!
'..and make sure they are held to account.
'It's not just our expensive gadgets that are being taken from us.'
They just went in, took what they could and went.
'It's our cherished heirlooms, too.'
The thing that upset me most was the loss of my mother's engagement ring.
It's going to take a while to just...
get used to what's happened and get over it.
'Items that mean the world to us.'
Very upset over it, really.
'But police officers love nothing more
'than to recover these prized possessions...'
I can confirm it is their sat-nav, so result!
'..and return them to us.'
I didn't expect to see it again.
To get those items back to people is really fantastic.
I think the owners might be crying in happy tears.
The police are amazing.
I am for ever indebted to them.
This is Robbed...
Thanks very much.
I never thought I'd see this again.
I thank them from the bottom of my heart.
'On today's programme,
'Essex Police are on the case of thieves targeting lorries.'
I was in the middle of the road, trying to pull you over.
'The extraordinary story of lorry drivers who have their goods stolen
'from right under their noses whilst asleep in their cabs.'
You can't park anywhere without getting anything pinched.
'And the future looks grim for a marching band
'after all their instruments are stolen.'
I was cross that someone could do it to all these children
that work so hard and come year in, year out
every week to come and play.
'The port at Tilbury in Essex is the third largest container port in the UK,
'handling over four million tonnes of cargo each year.
'Lorry parks are dotted around the area, where drivers bed down for the night.
'Vehicles are sitting ducks for thieves, known as Bladers,
'as they use knives to slash sides of the trailers.'
I wouldn't be able to sleep at night, thinking,
is there somebody out there about to attack my load or my diesel?
'Unbelievably, they also drain fuel
'whilst the drivers are asleep less than two metres away.'
You're looking at £500, £600 for a tank load of fuel. Easy money.
You haven't got anything you shouldn't have?
'In Operation Blade, Essex Police patrol the lorry parks
'day at night around Tilbury and Grays.
'It's 11:30pm and PC Mick Finch is called to an incident.'
Usually only certain people move around in their vehicles at night.
That's taxi drivers, the emergency service and villains.
'Police have had a call from a lorry driver on the main approach road to the docks
'where dozens of lorries park up each night.'
-So, what lorry was it that's been done?
-The one at the front as well?
-Third one back in the line
-is the one that's been done.
We'll walk down.
Hello. Is it your lorry that's been...?
Yeah, this one here.
I never heard a thing. This lad here saw them
running up and down the bank with the cans.
They're obviously quiet. You don't hear a thing.
-You saw them out of the cab, didn't you?
I just heard a noise and I actually looked out the window
and I could actually see them going up and down the bank.
One person with the can.
They've managed to get the cap off. It's a locking cap,
so somehow they've managed to force that off with some implement.
They've managed to, er...siphon the diesel
from the tank into plastic containers
and then take it back to their waiting vehicle.
They've driven off, so, er...
I just came to have a look, to see what was about.
That's where we were. This is a road they've used before.
I've just spoken to one of the officers.
They've got the cans back with quite a bit of fuel, they're going to bring around.
So at least he'll get some of his fuel back.
They had a vehicle over there and they've driven off.
Thieves have been using plastic bottles to steal diesel from the lorry
and take it to their waiting car.
They got away with £450 worth of fuel.
Diesel theft is a big problem.
A survey by the Road Hauliers' Association
showed that more than half the respondents
had been victims of fuel theft.
This isn't the first time that this has happened to driver Keith.
I had this one done about three or four weeks ago at Peterborough.
The same again, 300 litres.
I was parked in a lay-by overnight.
It's getting to the point where you can't park anywhere without getting anything pinched.
Keith's not only lost his fuel, he's also lost a night's sleep.
You're not going to go back to sleep now
cos you're that restless.
You've just got to find the nearest fuel station and fuel up again
with extra cost to what you've lost.
TruckPol, the police intelligence unit for freight vehicles,
estimated that over £25 million of goods
was stolen from trucks in the UK in 2010.
At midnight, PC Chapman is off to another Operation Blade incident.
If you spied three blokes in a lay-by
attempting to break into a lorry to get at the cargo inside,
units disturb them.
Our controllers try and direct units in as we speak.
-There's one made off...
-Yeah, made off from a...
You know the trigger gun we've got in place, for the theft from motor vehicles.
As we were driving in, they were coming out in this.
Just as we're all converging at the right time.
These two have been detained coming in for that. Stay mobile, see what we can do.
Yeah. All right. No worries.
Four suspects, initially. One detained at scene.
Two made off in this vehicle here, which is a Fiesta.
It was subsequently stopped by the traffic units.
Two detained from there and then there's one outstanding. Units have gone mobile,
and they'll see if they can find him.
-You'll be glad to know we've got three out of...
On the ball today.
-You didn't hear them?
Three youths have been caught trying to break into the back of an HGV, whilst a fourth is still on the run.
PC Chapman takes a statement from the driver about the incident.
-Hello, mate. Are you all right?
-All right, mate.
I've just got to take a quick statement off you. Nothing too major.
-Did they disturb you at all? Didn't hear nothing, no?
That is a whopping big padlock.
OK. We'll just take a quick statement off you, detailing what the score was
and what time you parked up. It won't take too long and we'll go from there.
-Happy with that?
-Lovely. No worries.
The driver was asleep in his cab.
It was a passing police patrol that spotted the men breaking into the lorry.
I was sleeping in the lay-by, waiting to go in the docks.
I can't move until quarter past six.
All I hear is the police knock on the door.
"Just check that these seals are yours.
"We think they tried to break into yours." And they had.
I can't get in it.
You've got to be careful on this job where you park. I thought this was safe here.
Obviously, it isn't.
You get all sorts knocking on your cab doors.
Luckily, tonight, it was the police.
This vehicle is carrying bathrooms, kitchens...
Where we get vehicles that are broken into
there's Armani suits, IP3 players,
Basically, it's the luck of the draw.
These people that are doing the crimes don't know what's in these vehicles,
until they're broken into and sometimes it's pot luck what they get.
A lot of these drivers, it's their own vehicles.
It's their livelihood, it's their living.
The curtain-sided containers, they cost thousands to repair
so if they're the owner of these, it's initial cost to have that repaired.
Sometimes, they have to reimburse the companies. Could lose contracts. It has an effect on their living.
-Thanks a lot.
The thieves chose the wrong vehicle to try and break into
as it is a steel-sided, well-secured lorry.
You have security tags that are put on at time of loading
to ensure the integrity of the load.
I think what these lads have done is, not being very clever,
they've probably mistaken those for the actual seals, thinking that this is something else.
They've cut those off initially, tried to open them
and realised that it's got a huge padlock bolt across here.
How they were going to get through that I have no idea,
with bolt cutters, which is what they were found with.
You won't be able to bolt cut that. A bit amateur, to be honest.
They didn't have a clue what was in there.
The standard MO is to find a curtain-sided lorry,
cut a hole in the side and look through, see what's in there.
If you've got boxes, cut a hole in the box, see if there's anything worth taking.
What they were going to do here I don't really know.
Not the cleverest thing in the entire history of the world but, erm, yeah. Foiled.
Coming up - PC Swain gets a surprise when he finds a man
hiding in the boot of a car.
Hello. Jump out, please.
Lorry crime is not restricted to the industrial areas around docks,
as John Dimmock of the Nexus Drum & Bugle Corps found out.
About five years ago, we realised that we needed a lorry
with the type of equipment we were carrying about
and the distance we were travelling.
We couldn't fit everything in the coach so we decided to purchase a lorry.
We had to raise about £4,000.
To buy the instruments that we needed,
already this year, we've spent about £20,000.
With their new instruments, the band was on a high.
A thank you concert for all the fundraisers was planned for
Friday 28th October.
So on the Thursday night, the vehicle was loaded, ready for
the big event on the Friday.
At 7am on the Friday morning,
staff at the warehouse where the van was stored
rang Elizabeth McLernen, one of the band's organisers, with a question.
I was on my way to work the next morning
and I had a phone call from the gentleman that runs our warehouse.
He asked me where the truck was.
I went, "In the yard." He went, "No."
The van, with over £20,000 of instruments,
had been stolen.
I was gutted by the news and found it difficult to comprehend what was going on.
When I was told the truck had been stolen, I was devastated.
It was our life on that truck, really.
Everything we have worked for for the past ten years,
all the money that we'd raised to buy new instruments.
To realise it had all gone was devastating.
The future of the band was in the balance.
Not only had they lost their lorry, they lost all their instruments in one night.
When we came in on the next practice,
we had instruments that were falling apart.
It wasn't nice to play on because they didn't sound good.
Many band members feared for the safety of their instruments.
We didn't know where the instruments had gone
or what had happened to them,
if they'd been melted down for something else.
Immediately, Bedfordshire Police scour the area
to try to track down the missing lorry.
The band members were so desperate to get their instruments back,
they decided to help the police by spreading the word about the theft.
I decided we had to do a few things to support the police, to find out
where the vehicle had gone and where our equipment was.
We got in contact with all the local newspapers,
and we also rung the local TV station to see if they could help.
After 36 hours, there had been no sightings of the lorry.
The band feared their instruments could already be out of the country.
On Monday morning, local TV broadcast the story of the theft
and appealed for help.
By that evening, it seemed to have done the trick.
A gentleman, who drinks in one of the local clubs
in the next village, saw it parked when he was on his way to work.
He only knew that because of the TV coverage that we had.
The lorry was found 17 miles away, abandoned,
damaged and drained of fuel.
At first, there was huge relief but then there was a problem.
The police not only wanted to carry out forensic tests,
they also wanted the recovery of the lorry to be kept secret to help them catch the thieves.
For the band, it was an agonising wait.
Although it was an exciting time, it was a little bit
sort of worrying that the biggest amount of value, really, would have been inside the lorry.
I was texting everyone, asking them if they knew anything,
trying to find out what was going on, whether we'd get them back.
It was just a nightmare for those few days.
As the days passed, nerves were stretched to breaking point.
Finally they got the go-ahead to check their lorry.
When I opened the lock, to our surprise and jubilation, really,
all the equipment was inside.
When they'd been found, oh, it was just such a relief.
All that money hadn't been thrown away
and we did have all our new instruments back and we could still use them.
MUSIC: "Wind Beneath My Wings"
I was over the moon when they were back.
It was brilliant. Relief to know we'd got it back
and that everything that we'd worked for was back.
But it was not all good news.
The lorry was a write-off,
so the band needs to raise money for a new one.
Undeterred by the shocking theft, the Nexus Drum & Bugle Corps
is looking forward to making music for many years to come.
Everybody is very, very excited.
We can move forwards, we can move onwards,
so we can play the music we want to play and we can enjoy ourselves.
So it's really, really good.
Earlier, we were out with Essex Police catching Bladers -
thieves who slash lorries and steal goods,
or drain fuel from parked lorries.
They've already made three arrests for attempting to break into a lorry
crammed with expensive kitchen parts.
It's the following night and PCs Martin Swain
and Gemma Britten are setting off to patrol the lorry parks.
At 12:30am, PC Britten spots some men
asleep in a car near a lorry park.
-Hello. Is this your car?
-Are you staying here long?
-Er, we're waiting for here.
We have a meeting in the morning.
OK, have you got any ID on you, anything with your name on it?
-Have you got any ID?
-In the back?
Can I see your ID, please?
As a matter of routine,
PC Swain goes to check out the men's details.
Suddenly, PC Britten spots a car pulling out of the lorry park
and heading towards them.
The driver either hasn't seen PC Swain
or doesn't want to talk to him.
-Did you see where they're going?
-'You're probably in the middle of a check.
'But does the car appear suspicious in the circumstances?'
No, not at the moment.
We just had a suss vehicle that failed to stop for us.
It's a VW Golf.
Ends in Juliet, Foxtrot, Kilo or something similar.
Could have gone down the 1089 or into Tilbury. Tilbury, I reckon.
-Didn't go into ASDA, did it?
-Don't think so.
I saw him go in.
-'Yeah, have you got a vehicle?'
We were in a lorry park doing a stop check on a vehicle.
And another vehicle's come into the lorry park,
it's got at least four or five males in the car.
I've asked the car to stop and it's gone straight past me.
You get a lot of vehicles with several people in them
going to lorry parks at night.
They could be stealing anything from the lorries,
they could be siphoning fuel from the lorries.
They've lost the car.
So PC Swain contacts other patrols to keep an eye out for the vehicle.
Yeah, received. Could you possibly do some intel around the road,
and can we get that put on the hot list, please?
He's definitely up to no good. I think there's Bladers out tonight.
There was a lot of them in it.
And they just ignored the fact that we wanted them to stop.
We're still looking for this vehicle.
We're just checking out all the areas nearby that they might have dumped it and gone out on foot
because they knew we would spin around and look for them.
We're just going to widen the search now and look in different areas.
-It's frustrating, isn't it?
All they can do is search the empty streets
in the hope that they spot the car again.
-'He's parked out on 280.'
It's either gone down the 1089 at speed,
or into Tilbury, I think.
-'I'll head that way.'
He's coming in behind us.
We'll just continue to look for it.
Suddenly PCs Swain and Britten get a call saying the vehicle they are
searching for has returned home.
The vehicle that we are looking for, a unit has just seen it parked
outside of the home address that the car's registered to.
Males have been seen to go into the address
so we're just going to make our way there now.
Hopefully get to speak to them and find out what they've been up to.
I think it might be this car here.
When they arrive at the address, another unit is already there
and an officer is questioning the owner of the car.
Hello. You all right there?
I was pretty obviously in the middle of the road trying to pull you over.
You went past me and you didn't stop. All right? I can arrest you for that.
I can report you for that. It's all well and good standing here and saying sorry.
We will place an information report on your car.
-You will get pulled over in it, cos you are out in it late at night.
We're going to search your car under Section 1, looking for stolen items
and things like that.
-Is there anything in the car that shouldn't be in the car?
They're looking for items which can be used to break into lorries
or drain fuel from tanks.
Hosepiping, um, containers - that kind of thing,
if they're siphoning any fuel.
The car is searched and PC Swain finds a latex glove on the back seat.
Do any of you work as a doctor? It's a latex glove.
-You don't know who that belongs to, no?
It's not an offence to carry tools or gloves in your car,
but when combined with unusual late-night activity,
the police are suspicious.
-Are you working in the morning?
-And you're out after midnight?
-Yeah, I know.
-Just driving about?
Most people would just be in bed, wouldn't they?
We'll let you go, all right?
It's not worth risking your job over, is it?
No, no, that's it. It's not worth it.
-OK, off you go then.
-Thank you very much.
There is not enough evidence for an arrest.
But for PC Swain it was still worth tracking down the car.
It's worth sticking the car on the system
and we'll keep an eye on it in case it comes out late at night
and keep stopping it and find out who's driving it.
Later that night at 1:30am,
PCs Swain and Britten stop a car that is on the list of known vehicles to Operation Blade.
I think this is a Blade car.
Yeah, it is.
We're just going to stop this car.
We think we know who the occupants are and they're known Op Blade offenders.
Have you got any ID on you? You haven't.
Going west and into Purfleet.
-Let me fetch it out.
-OK, just bear with me.
You went through a red light, which is why we've stopped you.
Do you know what threw me, there was a car...
We've got a Blade vehicle stopped. Several people inside it.
There was a car. He stopped. I don't know why he stopped.
When he stopped I thought he'd gone through a red light, so I went.
Well, it was red and you did go through
and that's why I've stopped you.
-Give me my car keys, mate.
Why do you waste your time asking questions when you can...?
-I'm asking you.
-What's the point?
Because the driver is getting jumpy,
PC Swain decides to search the vehicle.
OK, we're going to give you a search and the vehicle a search.
Have you got anything on you you shouldn't have?
All I've got on me is a phone, there's a pair of gloves in there.
If this is a Blader's car, the officers will expect to find tools,
keys or other items that have been used in criminal activities.
Do you work in the car trade, do you?
I buy and sell cars, that's why I go to traders.
As PC Swain opens the boot...
Like I said, if you want to waste your time...
..they were not expecting that.
Jump out, please.
The man in the boot is known to PC Swain as he had been filmed
nine days earlier.
Why didn't you want to tell us about...
Can you stop the vehicle?
-Stop the vehicle.
-You should really keep all your tools in your boot.
I'll put them in the boot now if you want.
So why didn't you want to tell us about ... being in the car?
-Didn't see him.
-You didn't see him in your car?
I thought you'd seen him from the front.
We've searched the car and the males in the car
and we've found a number of items - a couple of radios, some gloves,
screwdrivers, a torch.
Um...they're the items we're looking for for people that are committing these offences.
The man hidden in the boot confirms PC Swain's suspicions
and he feels there is enough evidence to warrant an arrest.
At the moment I'm putting you under arrest on suspicion of...
-HE READS HIM HIS RIGHTS
-It was a spanner!
..will be given in evidence. All right?
Those are meant for...
-I went to get an orange juice. Go and check the cameras.
You've been arrested for the stuff found in your car.
-You've got loads in your car.
-Why were those tools in your car?
-I swore, I apologise.
We've arrested them for going equipped for theft.
All three are being taken down to the police station and will be interviewed about the offence.
PC Swain's suspicions that these men were out to break into lorries
and steal property has been justified.
They are taken into custody and their tools have been seized.
We could have possibly prevented further offences being
So it's a good stop, and it also lets them know that we are out there looking for them.
It is important that we do continue looking for these vehicles
and stop them when we see them.
In the other Operation Blade cases we saw earlier,
there are no suspects for the diesel theft.
In the attempted theft from the padlocked lorry,
one man pleaded guilty to vehicle interference.
The other three suspects received cautions for their parts
in the offence.
The three men arrested for suspected Operation Blade offences
had the going equipped for theft charge discontinued.
The driver was fined £130 and given three points for jumping
a red light.
No-one has yet been caught for the theft of the lorry
and instruments belonging to the Nexus Drum & Bugle Corps.
The instruments were recovered
and the band has now raised enough money to buy a brand-new lorry.
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
In this episode, an eagle-eyed witness comes to the rescue when a marching band has their van stolen - with all their instruments still inside; and police crack down on the night-time thieves who target lorries while their drivers are asleep in their cabs.