Belfast Telegraph

Watch: Masked men steal keyless car in 'sickening' theft

by Eimear McGovern

A man has warned owners of keyless cars to be aware after his vehicle was stolen from his driveway as his family slept upstairs.

Raymond Younge, of Donaghcloney in Co Down, was one of two homes targeted on the same night when thieves used what's been described as 'relay' theft to take his Range Rover.

The thieves arrive at the property.
The thieves arrive at the property.
The thieves go into the back garden to use the 'relay' technology.
They gain access to the car.
They drive away.

Operating in a group of at least three, they also took a keyless BMW X5 from a house in Gannon Lodge, Craigavon in the early hours of Thursday July 4, according to police.

“At around 8am, it was reported to police that a number of people arrived at a house in the area driving a dark coloured BMW X5 vehicle. They exited the car, unlocked a Range Rover vehicle parked nearby with a handheld device," said Chief Inspector Tim Flanigan.

The vehicle unlocked and the thieves made off in both vehicles towards Donaghcloney village.

"It seems to be something that's been going on for a few years over in England and it's been hitting Northern Ireland in the past few weeks," said Mr Younge.

Car thieves have been using devices to relay the signal from the key to the car.

This tricks the car’s system into believing the key is closer than it is, resulting in thieves being able to unlock the doors and start the engine before driving off.

Mr Younge said his keys were in his trouser pocket upstairs when his car was stolen.

His wife and two children were also sleeping in the house.

"I don't know where else we could put them. The AA said we should put our keys in a tin box. Are you supposed to take a tin box with you to work, to the gym, to a restaurant?

"What do we do? It doesn't matter whether you're at home or at work - it can happen anywhere."

He said he's been in touch with Landrover to tell them about the problem in the hope that they can make other customers aware.

"All they said was we're very sorry, but we're working on a technology advance to thwart this crime.

"Landrover said to me we don't want to have a sticking plaster scenario where people are having to put their keys in a pouch. But I would have happily put my keys in a pouch if it had stopped my car being stolen.

"My car is gone, I'm stuck - but anybody else who has these cars needs to protect themselves."

Police don't believe Mr Younge's car will be returned, he said.

"The police have said this is a stolen to order-type thing and the presumption is that it's away in a container to a foreign country, as is the other x5.

The police hadn't seen anything like it before. It's sickening to watch how easy it can go."

Police said they are appealing for information following the thefts.

"We would take this opportunity to warn vehicle owners that with advances in technology, thieves are now able to gain access to your vehicle by redirecting the wireless signal from your key fob.

"Motor vehicles are extremely expensive and owners should take the same precautions as they do with home security. Establish a routine to help keep your vehicle safe, including using your garage if available to secure your vehicle.

"Use physical car locks such as steering column locks and chains, as well as keeping all car keys (including spares) away from exterior doors and walls. Motorists are also advised to use a blocking pouch (lined with metallic material) to help block the wireless signal from your key fob.

"Enquiries are continuing and we would appeal to anyone who witnessed either incident to contact police in Lurgan on 101, quoting reference number 326 4/7/19. Alternatively, information can also be provided to the independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 which is 100% anonymous and gives people the power to speak up and stop crime."

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