There is nothing quite like the sinking feeling that rises from the pit of ones' stomach after a vehicle is stolen.
A moment of confusion - as the brain rules out any possibility that the vehicle was parked somewhere else - soon makes way for a stab of terror as realisation sets in that the vehicle is in fact, gone.
I was unlucky enough to experience this cruel sensation last week and it was made even more harrowing because the vehicle in question wasn't mine. It was the property of Ford Motor Company UK.
The motor was a brand new, extremely shiny Ford Transit Long-Wheel-Base Jumbo Double Cab-in-Van High Roof.
The title alone is enough to attract the light fingers of your local car thief but I didn't think for a minute that something as large as a Transit van would simply disappear without a trace.
But disappear it did, from a leafy side road in Essex some time between lunchtime of Wednesday 6th February and the morning of Friday 8th of February.
EJ12 AHL was loaned to me on a long (ish) term basis so I could get to grips with the machine and ultimately review it for a motoring magazine. But really, the keys were pressed into my palm because they are an extremely friendly bunch at Ford and decided to help out an needy hack with an impending house move.
The Transit was perfect for this task – boasting enough room in the rear for a sofa, beds and wardrobes – plus enough space in the cab for the better half, a bulldog and his ridiculous collection of bedding and squeaky toys.
EJ12 AHL was only left unattended for two nights but that was enough time for a sophisticated bunch to do away with something that weighs nearly two-tonnes without anyone raising an eyebrow.
The police were fairly nonchalant about the whole affair, with the officer assigned to my case explaining: "It doesn't matter where you park it, they'll have it off your driveway if they really want it."
He went on to describe how thieves are now cloning keys, getting inside the Transit and overriding the ECU with new technology and simply driving away. Or, alternatively, they turn up with a flatbed, don a high-viz jacket do their best parking attendant impression and make off with your property.
This information didn't make the phone call to Ford any more pleasant, the van was left in my care and it was my responsibility, after all.
Bob Wright, Press Fleet Administrator at Ford and overall top bloke, more than understood the situation. He was happy that I hadn't been foolish enough to leave any of my personal items inside the van (I very nearly did) and that I wasn't beaten up in my sleep by thugs on the hunt for Ford Transit keys.
But the whole experience wasn't any less stressful or disturbing, despite Ford's best efforts to go easy on me. I spent the best part of a weekday afternoon dealing with the police, which meant my work suffered. My fiancée had to leave work early and desperately ring around van rental firms to find a replacement vehicle for the move. Which we did and after re-telling our sob story, the owner of the rental firm revealed that 32 Transit vans had gone missing from the area in the last month, including one of his own that was pinched from a customer's driveway as he slept.
Above all else, everyone affected by the theft was left with high-blood pressure, thinner wallets and a huge workload to catch up on.
So, if anyone sees a jet-black Ford Transit Long-Wheel-Base Jumbo Double Cab-in-Van High Roof driving around the Chingford/Woodford area in Essex (or anywhere in the world, for that matter) please report it to the police. Ford and I would be very grateful.
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