Sunday, 22 September 2019

Nail saboteur targets cars

Nail saboteur targets cars

AT least 20 drivers have had their car wheels or tyres damaged in a series of suspected acts of sabotage.

Most of the attacks involved 4in nails which were wedged pointing upwards beneath the wheels of vehicles so that the owners suffered punctures or worse when they pulled away.

In other cases, the nails were hammered into tyres while the victims’ cars were unattended.

The culprit has usually used masonry nails, which have a distinctive twist in the thread.

The attacks have happened in Shiplake and Binfield Heath and involved vehicles parked in streets and on private driveways.

They began early last month but it only became clear they must be linked when victims shared their experiences on online community forums.

Police have been informed but no arrests have been made.

Among the victims is 78-year-old Peter Woolsey who reversed his Mercedes Benz over a nail near his home in Heath Drive, Binfield Heath.

He found a small angular hole had been drilled into the tarmac and a nail partially pushed into it with the pointed end upwards.

Mr Woolsey, who has lived in the village with his wife Finella for 20 years, said: “In a community where people care for each other, this is strange.

“I removed the nail from the tarmac because I didn't want to see someone else go through this.

“The nails are made of hardened steel and are being screwed into the road surface. They are deliberately placed and will go through any tyre that goes over them.

“I was on my way to see the doctor when I reversed over it and realised I had a flat tyre within 10 yards. That didn't happen by accident. This has been going on for about two months now but there is no rhyme or reason to it. Whoever is doing this has damaged quite a lot of cars.

“People need to be careful. You need to get out of your car and check your surroundings when you leave. The same goes for when you park your car in the evenings.”

Gareth Jones, who runs the Shiplake Villages website and discussion forum, discovered a puncture in his front nearside tyre as he drove along Memorial Avenue on July 31.

He said: “I was lucky because I knew something was wrong almost immediately as I could hear the nail tapping repeatedly on the road surface.

“I didn’t drive very far before I stopped to sort it out, so the hole was pluggable whereas others weren’t so fortunate.”

He says he might have been targeted at the memorial hall car park, which he had just left, although its trustees swept the area and found nothing untoward. Mr Jones, who lives in Lower Shiplake, said he knew of at least 20 people who had been affected.

He asked several DIY suppliers, including builders’ merchant Gibbs & Dandy in Reading Road, Henley, to identify the nail and was told that brand had not been sold for some time.

Mr Jones said: “It’s strange that it’s an older type of nail — if it was being done by kids, you’d expect them to go to a shop and just buy whatever was available. Perhaps somebody had an old stock of them and was burgled.”

Shiplake forum members suggested the culprit was trying to stop motorists parking in Memorial Avenue but Mr Jones said they wouldn’t have struck in other areas if this was the case.

One member said they had hit a nail on the avenue itself while another said they were struck at the roadside on the street between Binfield Heath and Shiplake Row. Both had to replace their tyres.

Keith Harwood, of Thames View Tyres in Newtown Road, Henley, said he had helped about a dozen victims who each had to pay about £150 or more if their wheels were damaged.

He said: “I’ve had absolutely stacks of cases, all with the same type of nail. It’s a very unusual design and quite specialised rather than being a standard one.

“They’re incredibly tough and don’t bend even after going straight through a tyre and, in some cases, out the other side of an alloy wheel like a bullet.

“It has sometimes been quite expensive because you can imagine the type of car that some people in those villages own.

“This has to just be some weirdo acting on their own. It can’t be a coincidence because it’s such a specific nail that’s being used.

“None of my customers had any idea who could be doing it but whoever it is, they’ve made a lot of people very unhappy.”

One victim said the police were logging the reports as “incidents” rather than crimes because they couldn’t be sure they were deliberate acts.

Another said she she was told there were no avenues of enquiry and offered victim support counselling.

Thames Valley Police confirmed that incidents had been reported.

Last year, a similar problem occurred in a Somerset village when nails were glued to the roadside near a primary school, damaging parents’ tyres.

Victims believed a neighbour was targeting them for parking outside houses during the school run.

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