AN AMATEUR footballer could be hundreds of pounds out of pocket after his BMW was stolen with the key he had left in a dressing room 40 miles away.
Worcester-based Zac Blood played in Newent Town’s FA Cup extra preliminary round tie at Cribbs FC in Bristol on Tuesday but was among the players to report items missing from the away changing room after the game.
Family members headed to Newent’s Wildsmith Meadow headquarters to provide a spare key but found one of the locked gates had been prised open and Mr Blood’s BMW M Sport nowhere to the seen.
Within two hours of raising the alarm, Avon and Somerset Police had been alerted to a car matching the description of Mr Blood’s “in the Cribbs Causeway” area of Bristol.
Mr Blood said he had been contacted by police the following morning to say his vehicle had been impounded for forensic examination only to be told differently when he went to collect it on Thursday.
He said he had to pay a £170 charge to release the car, a cost he hopes will be reimbursed through a complaints process, and that the prospect of a conviction would be “unlikely”.
The sides of the car were damaged when thieves drove through a gap which was too small, leaving Mr Blood with a £600 insurance excess to cover.
“I was told it was going to be forensically examined but it turns out they don’t do that for stolen cars,” said Mr Blood.
“They said they don’t have the resources, they would only do it if the car had been involved in an accident or at the scene of a burglary or heist.
“There was no need for it to be held, I could have grabbed it the night they found it. I now have to write a letter of complaint to Avon and Somerset Police to try to claim back the fee – it just keeps getting better and better.
“Because it is unlikely they will be able to prosecute anyone, there is no one for BMW to claim back the money from, no compensation through the court. The damage is going to be way more than my excess so I may as well go through my insurance.
“It just feels like you are going to get away with nicking a car unless you’re caught inside it. I am not pleased at all, it seems ridiculous.”
Mr Blood was equally unhappy with Cribbs, particularly manager Rich Luffman and player Jacob Hodgson, who “rubbed salt into the wound” when replying to tweets from Newent’s club account on the night.
Prior to the car being found, Luffman suggested it was “unlikely” to be someone local and that he would be “looking closer to home”, while Hodgson sarcastically wished Newent “good luck in the next round of the FA Cup” and later posted “hope you enjoyed your big day”.
“The away dressing room has no CCTV, it is the only place that doesn’t and if something goes missing the club does nothing whatsoever to recover your property or even help you put it out on social media,” added Mr Blood.
“Surely you’d at least do that out of decency. Instead they chose to mock us.
“The main thing I want to do now is warn people not to leave valuables anywhere there, keep them with you at all times, take a bag with you to the bench or whatever.
“I don’t want it happening to someone else. What’s done is done, I can’t change it and the best course of action is to get the word out to try to prevent anything like this happening again.”
In response, Mr Luffman said: “Apologies for the tweets being misread, we just felt that the finger had been pointed at us as a club when we had done everything we could to make it a good evening for Newent and put on the best hospitality despite Covid regulations.
“We are pleased the car has been found, that’s the most important thing, and we wish everyone at Newent the very best.
“We will be putting in steps to ensure this will not happen again. Before the evening we advised that no valuables should be left in the dressing rooms and that having a valuables bag, the same as we do, is the best course of action at any football ground.
“We apologise for the situation, we feel we did help and we are sorry Zac doesn’t feel that way.”
It may have marred Newent’s FA Cup bow but Mr Blood is adamant the experience has not put him off playing.
“I’ll crack on,” he insisted.
“I only have a few seasons left, I’m sure my body will give up before my love for football will.”
Avon and Somerset Police confirmed two males, aged 37 and 17, had been arrested on the night and have since been “released under investigation”.
A police statement read: “We were called at approximately 10.20pm on Tuesday, September 1 about a set of car keys for a black BMW being stolen from changing rooms at sports ground in the Henbury area earlier that evening.
“The vehicle had been left in the Newent area of Gloucestershire but a BMW matching that description and a white Transit van were spotted by a member of the public in the Cribbs Causeway area at about 12.20am the following morning.
“Officers subsequently attended and established the car had been stolen. Two males, aged 17 and 37, have been arrested on suspicion of theft of a motor vehicle. They have been released under investigation. Enquiries, including reviewing CCTV, are continuing.
“Anyone with information about the theft is asked to contact us at www.avonandsomerset.police.uk/report or call 101 and give reference 5220198458.”
In the meantime, Newent Town’s Twitter page has promoted a JustGiving page set up to help those who had items taken on the night.