Three men were seen acting suspiciously near Aberuthven-based Strathearn Engineering, a witness told Tayside Police. The trio, all in their early to mid 30s and wearing dark coloured hooded tops, were seen loitering near the premises on the A824 in the village but no-one saw the second-hand Land Rover being driven through the fence or where it was driven afterwards. 'We have no indication where the car went or where it may be now,' said a Tayside Police spokesman.
He went on, 'It’s a relatively unusual type of theft as most car dealerships with vehicles displayed on forecourts have good security in place, so it’s not something that happens too often.'
Strathearn Engineering director Jonathan Leckie said he 'would be installing security cameras and other measures following the theft. The cost is prohibitive for a small business like us, but I’m afraid needs must,' he said. 'Our front gate is padlocked and we do have a fence around the forecourt, but it offers very little security.'
Previously Auchterarder-based, the business was relocated to Aberuthven in 2008. It primarily services Land Rovers, Range Rovers and Discoverys but usually has up to 15 Land Rovers for sale. Mr Leckie said additional security had previously been on the agenda after a series of unexplained thefts from 4x4s on the forecourt about 12 months ago.
'We thought that someone must be building a Land Rover piece by piece,' he said.
'A snorkel was torn off one car one night, we had a set of headlights stolen another night and then a full set of wheels were taken with the Land Rover left standing on bricks – a set of wheels and tyres cost about £800.'
He said the stolen blue-coloured, 1994, Land Rover Defender Tdi – registration R715 STS – featured a new paint-job, upholstery and wheels. With 96,000 miles on the clock it had been for sale at £9000. 'We’d prepared it all here and it was a really fresh car,' he said.
The police and its owner rated the chances of recovering the vehicle as slim. 'Land Rovers are very easily broken down for selling the parts off on eBay,' said Mr Leckie. 'Either that or it could be taken down south and sold under a new identity or even shipped over to somewhere like Ireland.' On the theft front; 167 have been stolen this year already between Jan 1st and March 1st. Relative to the 1087 that were stolen last year there seems to be little decline.
Anyone with information can contact Tayside Police on 0300 111 2222 or provide details anonymously via Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.