Car thieves take bait

IT WAS, alas, too clever by half. Police forces all over the country have been enthusiastically using the latest crime-fighting tool, the 'rat trap' car that catches its own thieves. Now a rat has pinched the trap, writes Tim Kelsey.

The special car is parked in an area likely to attract attention. When the thief breaks in, the reinforced doors automatically lock shut and alarms are triggered in nearby patrol cars. The windows can be opened only from the outside, and the engine cuts out after a few yards, leaving the robber with no means of escape. At least, that is the theory.

Last night, police in Newcastle upon Tyne admitted that this latest innovation had failed them. One of the 'rat traps' had been stolen, in broad daylight, while officers standing by to arrest the thieves looked on.

The car had been parked in the West End, a favourite area for joyriders. The engine-failure system failed and the thieves drove off in triumph. A police spokesman said: 'It would appear there was a technical malfunction.'

This is not the first such embarrassment. In July thieves stole a pounds 21,000 Sierra Cosworth, Europe's fastest Ford, from the Newcastle police pound.