Van thieves... tracked down!

A tracker spared a driver's blushes when his work van was stolen after he left the engine running outside his home.

The grinning thieves thought they'd made a clean getaway when they made off with Phil Bernard's van after he left the engine running to defrost the windscreen on a cold morning outside his house in Batley.

He had nipped back through his front door to fill a container with warm water and when the dad-of-two walked back out of the house he saw two hooded figures sitting in the Vauxhall Vivaro van.

One of the thieves grinned at him as the pair drove off.

But little did they know that the van was fitted with a tracking device.

Bosses at Mr Bernard's firm – mobile cosmetic vehicle repair business Direct Finish Ltd – were able to watch the culprits on screen at their base in Little Preston near Castleford.

Police were given information about the van's movements minute by minute from the company's traffic handler who "talked in" police officers in their patrol car and directed straight to the stolen van.

Within 45 minutes, officers traced the van to an address at Soothill, Batley and made three arrests.

The firm's eight vans are fitted with MG Fleet's LiveTrack system – used by businesses across the country to track their vehicle fleets.

Dad-of-three Mr Bernard, of Croftlands, Hanging Heaton, Batley, said: "I was gutted and embarrassed when the van was stolen. I was embarrassed more than anything because I have left my keys in the van. I've done it for years, you just never think it's going to happen to you."

He went on: "The tracker is a good bit of kit. It saved my job if it hadn't been for the tracker I wouldn't have seen the van again."

He added: "I will be getting it in the neck from my workmates at our Christmas do."

David Furness, of Direct Finish Ltd, said other vehicles in the firm's fleets have now been fitted with MG Fleet's LiveTrack facility, adding: "I'll be instructing all our drivers to follow police advice not to leave a vehicle unattended, even on your own property, with the keys in the ignition – however cold the temperature.

"This is just the incentive I needed to have all the other fitted with the trackers. It is important as a business to know where the vans are at any one time. It proved invaluable in this case – the van was retrieved within an hour."

Sarah Sordy of Mars Petcare in Birstall

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