Scam sparks massive police operation

POLICE mounted a massive investigation after a man claimed that someone impersonating a police officer had tied his hands together and stolen his classic car.

They carried out door-to-door enquiries, studied CCTV footage and even issued press releases following the alleged incident,

But the whole episode turned out to be an elaborate insurance scam, Cupar Sheriff Court has heard.

He had written off the Ford Escort RS2000 some weeks earlier and sold it on.

Derek Rankin (38) was ordered to carry out the maximum of 300 hours’ unpaid work when he appeared before Sheriff Charles Macnair.

He admitted wasting police time at St Andrews Police Station on March 10 this year by making the false allegation.

Depute fiscal Joanne Smith told the court that Rankin, of 62 Martin Street, Buckhaven, phoned the police from just outside Anstruther and reported that a man purporting to be a police officer had stopped him as he was driving the car back from the Crail Thrash.

He claimed that the man tied his hands with cable before making off with the car.

Officers were immediately dispatched to the scene; the CID carried out door-to-door enquiries, press releases were sent out and an e-fit image of the suspect was organised.

The police even checked local petrol stations but there was no trace of the vehicle, which the accused had recently insured for £17,000.

The accused told police he’d been with a man called Mark, who was also interviewed, but inconsistencies arose and police became suspicious.

Eventually Rankin admitted that he’d written the car off a few weeks earlier and this was the only way he could think of to recoup the money.

Ms Smith said it was not possible to put a cost on the operation but the alleged incident was treated very seriously and a lot of time and resources were allocated to its investigation.

Rankin’s solicitor Andrew Grieve said that although the insurance company had been notified, no claim was ever made.

“He bitterly regrets this incident,” he said.

“It became quite apparent to him that the police were very sceptical about the far-fetched claim but having gone down that path he found it difficult to deviate from it.

“It came as a relief when he was able to explain the background and what his motivation was.”

Mr Grieve said that Rankin, a self-employed mechanic, had had to give up work because of back problems and had invested in the car with the intention of selling it on to pay for private treatment.