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picThe Getaway Car - Henry was as proud as punch as he took possession of his new car, a beautiful 1600cc maroon Ford Escort at the main dealer’s showroom in Warrington, a far more powerful car than any previous model he had owned. With it’s double overhead thingies and Stromberg whatsit he was sure it would suit his exuberant boy racer tendencies and would look so good sitting on his driveway at home. It was the early nineteen eighties and everything looked good in the garden with prosperous times ahead and lots of exciting experiences to look forward to, little did he suspect however as he drove away from the bright lights of the showroom that his perfect poor man’s Bentley would turn out to be a massive disappointment. Within a week he began to realise the car’s performance was not what was to be expected from this type of car, it accelerated like a cart horse and drank fuel like a thirty ton articulated lorry, bicycles were accelerating away from traffic lights faster than he was. At the time Henry was working in an office on the fourth floor of the Liver Building at the Pier Head in Liverpool and was commuting by train to Lime Street and enjoying the walk across town each morning and evening, it kept him quite fit. Occasionally though he would need the car for site visits and expecting to use the car during one particular Thursday he drove into the city via Everton Valley and having the relevant permit parked in the firm’s secure car park in Chadwick Street close to the dock road. On returning later to pick up the car he found the site not as secure as he thought, although the ten feet high steel paling fencing looked rather impressive and would put off all but the most determined thief, people were the Achilles heel of this fort Knox. Other employees entering or leaving the car park would never challenge anyone following or tailgating them through the gates when they opened them and would occasionally leave the gates open. Yes the car had disappeared in broad daylight and as he later discovered, it had another disappointing feature, you could open it and drive it away with almost any barrel type key or just a blunt screwdriver. Had he made a mistake and come to work by train that morning? He was beginning to doubt himself and did a few more laps of the car park to check and make sure he wasn’t dreaming, but after recovering from the initial shock he began to see the funny side of the situation. It would be rather inconvenient without transport but he had developed a deep loathing for the car and it was with rather confused mixed feelings that he eventually reported its theft to the police with a smile on his face. Henry didn’t hear anything from the police for weeks, the trail had obviously gone cold and he began to harbour thoughts of receiving a cheque from the insurance company to enable him to look for a replacement. Unfortunately this was not to be, to his dismay after three weeks he received a call informing him of the “good” news, the car had been found. With no number plates but otherwise undamaged, roadworthy and drivable, it was in police custody in Poole Dorset. It must have taken the thieves a week to drive this slowest of cars all the way to Dorset but by far the most amusing part of the story was that it had been fitted with false number plates and used as a get-away car in several armed robberies on post offices in the area. Henry’s immediate reaction was to collapse in a fit of laughter as he imagined the thieves being chased down and apprehended by a constable with a tall helmet riding a police bike, there certainly wouldn’t have been the need for a high speed chase through narrow streets and the use of a “stinger” to stop the vehicle. The thieves weren’t that clever after all, obviously they hadn’t researched the relative getaway qualities of the cars in the car park that day, they didn’t know the difference between a Morris and a Maserati, in choosing Henry’s car to steal they had doomed their little plan to failure and delivered themselves inadvertently into the hands of the criminal justice system. Both insurer and breakdown assistance provider declined to repatriate the car referring Henry to their terms and conditions in respect of the car’s drivability, so having obtained new number plates from Halfords he set out the following Saturday morning from Lime Street on the cross country train service to Poole via Reading along with what seemed to be half the British army to bring the car back. The desk sergeant at Poole police station kindly supplied a couple of polythene “evidence” bags for the number plates which he fixed to the car by trapping the bags in the boot lid and bonnet for the long drive home, the car with all its wiring intact and apparently no worse for its recent adventures. He didn’t keep it long though afterwards, he traded it in for a “hot hatch” Austin Allegro with a square wheel.

Palfreyman April 2016