THE parents of a boy with severe autism are devastated after a thief stole their Motability car – which had been left defrosting on their driveway.

Father-of-two Jonathan Westall said the family’s £12,000 Vauxhall Zafira was taken from outside his Blackburn home when his wife Kimberley left the engine running while she popped back into the house.

He is now urging other motorists to be on their guard against opportunist thieves.

The Westalls, of Full View, Livesey, use the car to ferry around their nine-year-old son Jack, who attends Newfield Special School.

Because of his condition he finds it very difficult to adapt to change.

Mr Westall, an engineer, said: “When my wife told me the car had gone I thought she was having a laugh. It was literally left for just a few minutes.

“You cannot understand the mentality of people who do this. It’s been a setback for us and you would have thought that this was a quiet estate.

“I just want other people to be aware that this kind of thing can go on and to be on the lookout themselves.”

Jack attends a number of after-school clubs at Newfield and a car was essential for the family’s busy schedule, including medical appointments.

The couple, who also have a six-year-old daughter Leah said they now face a battle with insurers over the car, which was black and had a registration number of PO11 XAW.

The family’s trauma comes just as police issued a winter warning urging motorists not to leave their cars unattended when defrosting them during cold snaps.

Insp Simon Ingham, of the force’s vehicle crime team, said: “We know from previous years that some car thieves specifically target vehicles that they see sitting on driveways with the engines running.

“As soon as the owner goes inside the house, usually to finish getting ready for work, they take their chance and drive the car away.

“With the increase in vehicle security, this is the quickest and easiest way for a thief to steal your car.

“Many insurance companies may refuse to pay out if vehicles are stolen in this manner.”

People with any information about the Westall’s theft, which happened on Thursday morning, or any similar vehicle crime are asked to call police on the new non-emergency number, 101.