A DRIVER from Tedburn St Mary has told how his car was stolen by opportunist thieves after he left it on to warm up the engine and defrost the windscreen. 

Miles Key saw a very sharp overnight frost had frozen his car windows before he left for work so he popped outside to turn on the engine of his white Peugeot 3008 which was parked on the driveway of his cottage on the outskirts of the village on Tuesday morning.

Miles, 64, was away for no more than five minutes as he said goodbye to his wife Louise but as he walked through his kitchen he saw the back of his car disappearing.

It was one of four cars stolen on Tuesday morning in various parts of Devon by an organised gang of car raiders. 

Ironically Miles and Louise Key found another of the stolen car which had been taken from a driveway in Newton Abbot, Devon - some 22 miles away - which had been locked and abandoned in a recreation ground car park just 100 yards from the Keys home. 

The Keys spotted the five door red VW T-Roc car in the car park on Tuesday night but by Wednesday morning it was no longer there. Their own car was later recovered by police.

South West Water operations manager Miles said: ‘It was a very sharp frost so I started up the engine to defrost the car which is a company vehicle.

‘It was on my driveway so I didn't think it would be a problem. I left it for five minutes at most.’ 

He saw his car being driven off - with a black BMW car in hot pursuit and the two cars roared off along the 30mph road towards Whitestone near Exeter. 

The Keys have seen CCTV from local businesses and members of the public have been in touch to tell them that they saw the two cars together heading towards Crediton.

Care worker Louise, 55, said: ‘A lady saw the black BMW car a few minutes after our car was stolen and she said the passenger was a young man wearing a black hoodie who was laughing his head off.’

She said there has been suspicious activity in their village and nearby villages with people possibly posing as delivery drivers spotted taking photos of cars and checking out houses.

She said: ‘I think it’s an organised gang. I think our car was taken in an opportunistic crime. 

‘I like to watch out for people because I want a sense of justice.’

Their car was not high end and was six years old and worth around £8,000. She said it was found later in Crediton. 

Louise said: ‘It is a nice steady family car. We are hoping to buy it.’

The couple called police minutes after the theft and officers went to their home within 30 minutes and patrols were told to keep an eye out for the two cars seen in convoy. 

Devon and Cornwall police have warned drivers to beware of starting their cars during the freeze and leaving them unattended.

Chief Insp Simon Jenkinson said: ‘We know it can be tempting to start your car and wait in the warmth of your home while ice defrosts but leaving your vehicle unattended while running can attract thieves and, if parked on a public road, you may be breaking the law. Please don’t leave vehicles running if unattended.’