Man who had car stolen finds it two miles from home - with the number plate changed with marker pen

The attempt to alter the number plate on Tom Lane's stolen car
The attempt to alter the number plate on Tom Lane's stolen car

A bungling car thief who tried to change the number plate with a marker pen was rumbled - after the owner spotted it just two miles from his house.

Tom Lane was devastated when his brand new Golf was stolen from his home in Horbury, Wakefield, just weeks after he bought it.

Tom Lane's Golf was stolen from outside his home in Horbury, Wakefield

Tom Lane's Golf was stolen from outside his home in Horbury, Wakefield

But devastation turned to delight - and a little bemusement - when he spotted the vehicle parked outside a nearby house.

And as if stealing Tom's car was not cheeky enough, the particularly un-smooth criminal had shoddily attempted to conceal the registration by turning the 'U's into zeroes, and filling in a '6' to change it to an eight.

A look through the windows also revealed the thief had munched his way through a bag of Tom's sweets.

The 32-year-old said: "My wife and I are currently moving house and I had left my car there while staying at my in-laws. I was devastated when it was stolen.

"I put an appeal out on Facebook and pretty promptly I had messages from people saying they had seen people wandering round the area trying people's cars. Then a guy rang me up to say he'd heard someone on his estate bragging about stealing the spare keys to someone's car.

"I have no idea how anyone got hold of my spare keys. Me and a friend went down there to look around. We turned a corner and I thought I recognised my car, so I pressed my key and sure enough the headlights flashed. It was amazing."

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But Tom, a surveyor, said he had to laugh when they noticed the attempt to cover up the number plate.

"They'd changed the letters and numbers - the '67 had been changed to an '87, which doesn't come out until 2030. They had even forgotten to change the number plate on the back.

"We looked inside and a bag of Drumstick sweets I had in there had also been eaten and my Ray Bans were still inside."

Officers told Tom he had been extremely lucky as only one in 10 car thefts end in the owners being reunited with their vehicles.

He added: "Unfortunately, the police still have it in a compound and I have to pay £150 to collect it.

"It is annoying but much less than having to claim on the insurance and sort a new car."

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West Yorkshire Police confirmed one man was arrested following the theft and released without charge.

A spokesman said: "Police are appealing for witnesses following a car theft in Horbury.

"Enquiries have been ongoing into the offence in which a VW Gold was taken from an address in Park Street, Horbury between 10pm on May 18 and 11.20am on May 19th. Officers arrested a man in connection with the offence but he has now been released with no further action taken.

"Anyone who saw the theft or has any information is asked to contact the Wakefield City and North West NPT on 101 referencing crime number 13190254296. Information can also be given anonymously to the independent Crimestoppers charity on 0800 555 111."