Birmingham car thieves jailed after stealing 16 vehicles and speeding off as drivers fill up fuel

Shocking CCTV footage captures two brazen thieves stealing vehicles in seconds

A pair of brazen car thieves have been jailed after CCTV captured them stealing vehicles while drivers filled up fuel at petrol stations.West Midlands Police have released the shocking footage showing crook William Lewis sneaking up on unsuspecting motorists at garages during the last year and jumping in the driver’s seat as unsuspecting motorists were distracted.

Police called the thefts the "most audacious" they have ever seen after dozens of motorists were targeted in Birmingham and Solihull.Brazen Lewis is seen speeding off in cars as owners were inflating tyres and vacuuming the inside - and on some occasions while petrol hose nozzles were still attached.The 37-year-old worked alongside Nelson Herne, 42, from Roach Close in Solihull, to steal at least 16 vehicles with a combined value topping £150,000.

Officers identified the pattern of offences and after scouring many hours of CCTV spotted a red Renault Clio used by the pair to stalk petrol stations on the look-out for unsuspecting victims.

William Lewis worked alongside Nelson Herne in stealing 16 vehicles worth around £150,000. Credit: West Midlands Police

The thefts happened in Solihull and east Birmingham.Detectives found the Clio was registered to a woman known to Herne and seized it during a raid on her address on October 1.A pair of boxing gloves were found in the boot that had been inside a Ford Kuga stolen on July 23 at an Esso garage in Station Road, Marston Green.

Police also found clothing at the address matching items used to commit the thefts.The Kuga owner also turned detective and found a man who she thought was responsible for stealing her car on Facebook using the profile name Billiam Lewis.Other sites targeted by the thieves were Morrisons in Chester Road, Jet in Flaxley Road, Erdington, Sainsbury’s in Castle Vale Retail Park, and the BP station in Washwood Heath Road.

Lewis’ partner Laura Lightwood and Michelle While used stolen bank cards taken from the cars. Credit: West Midlands Police

Detectives seized more CCTV footage showing 34-year-old Lewis’ partner Laura Lightwood and Michelle While, aged 39, from Gillscroft Road, Kitts Green, using bank cards taken from stolen vehicles at various shops.Herne and Lewis, from Honeybourne Road, admitted conspiracy to steal vehicles between February and July 2020 and at Birmingham Crown Court they were jailed for 27 months and 30 months respectively.Lightwood, also from Honeybourne Road, and While admitted fraud and handling stolen goods. Lightwood received an 18-month community order, including a rehabilitation course, but While failed to attend court and is now wanted.Detective Sergeant Mick Clark who led the investigation at Solihull Force CID, said after the case: "These were some of the most brazen car thefts I’ve seen in 14 years’ police service."

The thieves stole vehicles while people were putting air in their tyres. Credit: West Midlands Police

Detective Clark said: "Victims were caught completely off guard: you just don’t expect anyone to come sneaking across the garage forecourt in the middle of the day, jump in your car and drive away. You can see on the CCTV that victims look genuinely shocked.“We identified the red Clio that Lewis and Herne were using. Herne would help identify targets and send Lewis, who’s a heavy drug user, across the road to commit the offence.“They were causing a great deal of inconvenience and concern for motorists and I’m pleased that thanks to the hard work of our team they were caught and now in jail.“And finally a big thank-you to the young woman who found Lewis on Facebook after her car was stolen. That was an important breakthrough and a good piece of detective work.”