Hi-tech steering wheel thieves strike again in Chigwell

Thieves broke into Lauren Houlihan's car and removed the steering wheel on April 1. Photo: Lauren Ho

Thieves broke into Lauren Houlihan's car and removed the steering wheel on April 1. Photo: Lauren Houlihan - Credit: Archant

Residents fear a gang of thieves using electronics to hack into high-end cars are on the loose in Chigwell.

On April 1, Lauren Houlihan found that the steering wheel of her BMW had been stolen while it was parked outside her home in Brocket Way.

In what seemed like a targeted attack, the thief had left expensive electronics and even loose change untouched in the car.

The incident has left Lauren, who had lived in the area for less than a week when her car was broken into, shaken.

She told the Recorder: “It was horrible because immediately afterwards I began to doubt myself about whether or not I’d actually locked my car.

“And it’s a company car, so now we’re not sure if there is any way I can prove I locked the car so the insurance companies can’t argue I was negligent.”

And Lauren has her own theory as to why criminals in the area around Brocket Way might be deliberately targeting steering wheels.

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“Some BMW steering wheels can go for as much as £800 on eBay, and I know a couple of other people who have had their steering wheels stolen as well, so it’s clearly becoming more frequent.”

Sadly it doesn’t look as though the culprits will ever be brought to justice.

“I was advised by the police that as it happened at night with no witnesses or CCTV there was little to nothing they could do,” she said.

The Metropolitan Police could only confirm that they are investigating increasing reports of thefts from vehicles in Chigwell alongside Essex Police.

That is because two weeks ago, the Recorder reported how video footage caught a thief stealing steering wheels and sat navs were stolen from BMWs in Manor Road, using technology to exploit the keyless entry system.

The thief in that case caused £27,000 of damage and Essex Police, who are investigating that case, have confirmed there have been no arrests.

Last month a gang from across east London were convicted of a string of car thefts, worth almost £3million, in which they exploited vehicles’ keyless entry systems.