Expatica news

Police warn tourists of highway robbers

26 July 2004

BARCELONA – British holidaymakers in Spain were warned to be on the alert for highway robbers targeting foreign-registered cars – using airguns to shoot out the tyres and forcing drivers to stop, it was reported Monday.

Spanish police said they believed a gang was operating between the French border and the Barcelona area, preying on tourists as the main holiday season gets under way, the Daily Telegraph reported.

The warning came as a British couple reported being robbed of money, credit cards, passports, mobile phone and camera after they suffered a blow-out on a motorway between Barcelona and Tarragona.

Peter Woodward, 57, and his wife, Brenda, 51, had noticed that a car had been following their Mercedes for 50 miles, sometimes speeding up to overtake and then slowing down to be passed.

At one point, as Mr Woodward overtook the car, “I had a sudden and catastrophic puncture. I had to fight to keep the car on the road and we nearly overturned.

“I managed to pull up on the hard shoulder. One of my rear tyres was on fire and, as we got out, we noticed this same car had pulled up ahead of us.”

“The driver was shouting and pointing to my tyre. We went to look at it and in that instant the man dived into my car and grabbed all our valuables, which we had gathered in one place between the two front seats.

“He was so quick that we did not even notice what he was doing. We were so shaken by what had happened.”

He added: “We had to call out roadside assistance and the mechanic suggested the tyre had been shot at. He said the same thing had happened to two Dutch-registered cars the day before.”

Woodward, a management consultant who lives in Guernsey, said he later heard of Belgian tourists who had suffered a similar fate.

The couple continued their journey to Javea with the help of the British consulate in Barcelona.

Woodward warned fellow travellers not to keep their valuables together in an accessible place, and to be wary of other drivers showing an interest in their cars or indicating to them to pull over.

A spokesman for the Foreign Office said that its advice to Britons holidaying in Spain included a warning about the risk of highway robbery, although it said it had no specific knowledge of gangs shooting at tyres.

A Spanish embassy spokesman in London said he, too, was unaware of shooting incidents.

He said motorists should be wary of approaches in lay-bys, filling stations and on the open road when someone encouraged them to pull over. But, in general, he added, 16 million British tourists enjoyed a crime-free holiday in the country.

However, Spanish police said they had recently mounted a plain-clothes operation to thwart a Peruvian gang of thieves who had robbed several tourists on the motorway between the French border and Barcelona. At least two cars had been successfully targeted by the gang, and at least 20 other attempted robberies reported.

The Catalan Automobile Association said there had also been a series of attacks at service stations in the region.

A spokesman for Britain’s AA advised tourists under attack “not to be a hero” and to put their own safety first.

Other sensible precautions included parking near other vehicles when stopping and ensuring that car alarms were activated when leaving the vehicle.

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Subject: Spanish news