LUXURY cars are being stolen by hi-tech thieves who reprogramme the vehicles’ keyless ignition systems.

Fourteen Land Rovers and Range Rovers, some worth £40,000, have been taken across East Lancashire in the past month. Police said the crooks hacked into the cars’ diagnostic systems to disable locks and start the ignition.


Owners of the top-of-the-range models which include the Discovery, Evoque, Defender Sports and Vogue, are being urged to take extra precautions to avoid becoming victims.

The cars were stolen from driveways and public car parks in Mellor, Blackburn, Haslingden, Nelson, Rawtenstall and Whitworth.

Karen Shawcross, landlady of the Holden Arms, in Grane Road, Haslingden, where the latest theft happened, saw it take place out of her window.

She said: “It happened at 3.40 in the afternoon which is really shocking. I was on the phone at the window and I saw them drive off.

“I thought they must have been in a bit of a hurry.

“There were about 12 horse boxes and cars on the car park because the Holcombe Hunt had been in.

“We saw a car come onto the car park and then one of the men got out and into the Land Rover.

“It is awful because these are really expensive cars. It is frightening and not something I want for my customers.

“It has always been safe here.”

Since January 23, vehicles have been stolen from: the Kingfisher Business Park and Burnley Road East, both Rawtenstall; Lilac Terrace and Mellor Lane, Mellor; the Dunkenhalgh Hotel, Clayton-le-Moors; Farnell, Nelson; and the Clog and Billycock and Longsight Road, both Blackburn.

Two attempted thefts have also happened at Farnell, with thieves also trying to take vehicles from Whitworth. A Land Rover Discovery was taken from Abbott Brow ,Mellor, but was later found in Blackburn.

A grey Range Rover Sport stolen from the Hardmans Business Centre, in New Hall Hey Road, Rawtenstall, was also recovered in Blackburn.

It is understood the thieves take blank key fobs to the site where they intend to steal a car. They are then able to plug a device into the vehicle which allows them access its security information.

They then programme the fob to unlock the doors and start the engine.

The whole process can take just minutes.

A spokesman for Land Rover said engineers were working to improve the technology to make it more difficult to ‘clone’.

He said: “Land Rover is aware of the number of thefts of premium products. The current Land Rover line-up continues to meet the insurance industry requirements as tested and agreed with relevant insurance bodies.

“Nevertheless the company has taken this issue very seriously and our engineering teams have been working in collaboration with insurance bodies and police forces to fully understand the risks.

“It is however important to remember that this is an industry-wide issue.

“Access to the vehicle involves new technology being employed by organised crime to deceive customers into allowing their keys to be cloned. We will continue to evolve the technology in our vehicles as organised crime develops.”

DS Zoe Russo from Burnley CID said: “This type of crime appears to be a national trend with other forces reporting similar thefts. We think that the offenders have been able to steal the vehicles by reprogramming remote entry keys. “I would urge Land Rover owners to park their vehicles overnight in garages where possible and look at visible deterrents such as steering wheel and pedal locks, as well as other security measures including diskloks and clutch claws.”

Anybody with information should call Lancashire Police on 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111.