A Wigan labourer is warning van owners to be vigilant after a break-in during which he believes thieves used a skeleton key to swipe thousands of pounds of tools from a locked vehicle.
Joe McNamee, a Standish joiner, was forced to miss work last Friday when he discovered around £2,500 of power tools had been taken overnight.
The 22-year-old dad-of-one is warning fellow tradesman to be wary as he believes the offenders gained access to the locked cab using a “Tibbe key” which can allegedly be used to open any Ford Transit van.
He has spoken with several van owners in Wigan, all victims of similar crimes which occurred within a 48-hour period.
“I woke up normally to go to work and I noticed that the driver’s door was slightly open,” said Joe.
“I knew straight away what had happened.
“The back doors were slightly ajar and the sliding doors. They had taken all the power tools. It cost me £2,500 to replace everything.
“I couldn’t go to work - luckily my boss was understanding and didn’t dock my wages for the day. There are plenty of people who are self employed who are going to suffer a lot from thefts like this.
“It’s disgusting that someone would do this, it is someone’s livelihood as well as someone else’s possessions.
The list of stolen tools includes a Dewalt tough system radio, 4x4 Dewalt AH batteries, three chargers, an impact drill, a combi drill, and a circular saw - among others.
All of the tools are less than five months old and have “JM” written on them.
“I did lock my van but you can buy these keys now that get you into any Transit van,” he said. “Nine times out of 10 if there is no obvious sign of a break in they will have used a skeleton key to get in.
“I am in loads of security groups on Facebook and people are setting up petitions to try and get them banned.
“I really think that this is the work of an organised group. They know what they are going to get and that they are going to do well from it.”
The incident was one of nine which reportedly happened in the space of 24 hours, all of a very similar nature.
Joe explained how his neighbour also had his van broken into on the same evening, again with the offenders leaving no broken glass or sign of forced entry.
According to Joe, four additional vans were also burgled in the area on Friday and a similar offence took place in Appley Bridge on Saturday night.
The van owner caught the perpetrator on CCTV. Anyone with information should contact police on 101.