'CAT' burglars leave Blackpool school pupils counting the cost

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Children face missing out on school trips after opportunistic thieves left their minibus out of action.

A number of vehicles were reportedly targeted by criminals stealing catalytic converters over the Christmas break.

Kincraig Primary Schools Ford Transit minibus is recovered after the catalytic converter was sawn off and stolen

Kincraig Primary Schools Ford Transit minibus is recovered after the catalytic converter was sawn off and stolen

Karen Appleby, headteacher at Kincraig Primary School, said she was shocked to return in the new year and discover the damage to the minibus – which is used to take pupils to swimming lessons and on class trips.

She said: “I came in on the January 4 before the school opened on Monday and I noticed wires hanging from underneath the minibus.

“I called the AA out and they told me the whole exhaust had been sawn off. He said it could have been done in about four minutes which is unbelievable. We are having to go through two weeks worth of CCTV to find out when it happened.”

Catalytic converters –known as ‘cats’ for short – are a popular target for thieves due to their high value.

Mrs Appleby said it could be weeks before the minibus, which is kept in the locked school car park, is back on the road.

She added: “Because we don’t have any transport it will affect the children’s swimming lessons and any trips which maybe planned.

“It cost £150 on our excess but this will surely make our insurance go up in price and I’m worried that it will happen again. We can’t afford to build a garage for it. It’s really annoying and upsetting.”

She said she has received a lot of support from parents, adding: “The Facebook post had more than 12,000 views which was really amazing and the parent have been brilliant with their support. They offered to set up a funding page but we haven’t needed to as we have gone through the insurance.”

Catalytic converters are fitted to exhausts and turn toxic gases into a less harmful pollution through a chemical reaction.

They do this by using precious metals such as platinum.

A man was also disturbed by security staff at Blackpool Council’s Layton depot after being spotted “messing about” with buses.

A council spokesman said: “At around midnight on the December 29, our security staff disturbed a man at our Layton Depot site.

“Some minimal damage was caused but it has since been repaired and we reported the incident to the police.”

A Lancashire Police spokesman said officers were aware of both incidents and enquiries were still ongoing, however no arrests have been made so far. They are not currently being treated as linked.

It is understood another Blackpool educational establishment was also targeted by thieves around that same time, although nobody was available to comment when approached by The Gazette.

Valuable

Catalytic converters can contain valuable metals such as platinum, palladium, rhodium and gold.

There are estimated to be between three and seven grams of platinum in a standard converter with a gram worth around £21 according to current estimates. Vans are often seen as easier targets by thieves than cars. According to the Government, since 2013 more than 13,000 ‘cats’ have been stolen from UK vehicles.