Fuel thieves hit and run at Coffs airport
By CRAIG McTEAR
YOU'RE tired, your mouth abscess is giving you hell, and all you want to do is go home.
The last thing you need to be told is that someone has had a go at your car.
Kathleen Falvey found herself in this situation at Coffs Harbour Airport yesterday morning when she returned from her sister's surprise 60th birthday party in Sydney.
Kathleen's Ford Falcon was one of 24 vehicles targeted by petrol thieves in the general car park overnight on Monday. Luckily, she had just enough left in the tank to get her back to Kempsey.
On Saturday morning, Kathleen and her friend, Jackie Grangy, thought they were running late for their flight to Sydney and decided not to put the car in the security car park.
"That's the first and last time I'll be doing that," Kathleen said.
"I hadn't been worried about it at all while we were away, because generally people in rural areas are quite trustworthy.
"We've lived in the Kempsey area for four years, and we've never encountered anything like this."
By the time she touched down in Coffs Harbour at 8.30am yesterday, she was already irritable from an abscess on her gum which had worsened during the weekend.
"I was a wreck. I hadn't slept all night," she said.
A nice cup of coffee in the sun was just what the doctor ordered, but what Kathleen didn't want was a police officer telling her he'd found her petrol cap on the ground.
"We discovered about a quarter of a tank had gone," she said.
"I thought to myself, 'Oh, well, that's the risk you take when you leave your car out in the open'. It could have been a lot worse. They could have broken into my car and damaged it.
"I felt sorry for the people who had damage to their cars."
Police say the culprits used a screwdriver or something similar to gain access to each of the fuel tanks, but weren't able to siphon petrol from all of them.
They also smashed windows on three of those cars.
Airport staff discovered the damage early yesterday and reported it to police.
The city council does have security patrols at the airport, according to airport manager Bevan Edwards.
"We have had problems in the past with petrol siphoning, but this is probably the worst so far," he said.
"About 18 months or two years ago, a similar thing happened and the police became involved. Charges were laid."
n If you saw suspicious activity at Coffs Harbour Airport between 7pm on Monday and 7am yesterday, contact Coffs Harbour police on 6652 0299.