THIRTEEN cars at a dealership in Brockenhurst were sprayed with paint stripper and had their tyres slashed in what has been described as a ‘totally malicious’ attack that took just 13 minutes.
Staff at Meadens Motor Group are in shock following the incident at their premises in Sway Road.
Manager Tom Sexton told the A&T: “We have absolutely no idea why this has happened. It’s just come as a horrible, horrible shock.
“CCTV shows that the person was in and out within three minutes – it was a very well-planned attack, totally malicious.
“We are just left dumbfounded as to why someone would do this.”
The offender carried out his attack at the Skoda dealership on cars worth between £7,000 and £30,000. CCTV footage shows him appearing at the corner of The Rise and Sway Road at 10.25pm on Saturday December 1st.
As a car comes towards him along Sway Road, the culprit is seen ducking back into the darkness before emerging again once the vehicle has passed. Then striding purposefully, the vandal, who is carrying a carrier bag, goes across to a row of cars parked on the garage’s forecourt.
He crouches down then makes his way along the row, spraying the vehicles with a corrosive substance.
Two cars go past while he is carrying out the attack, before he leaves at 10.28pm. He is lit up in the lights of a car as he walks away.
Mr Sexton continued: “It was atrocious weather on that Saturday so that hasn’t helped with the CCTV, but it’s clear enough to show that this man meticulously planned what he has done.
“He’s come armed with the substance and he seems to have carried out surveillance to know that no one will be around and where the CCTV cameras are. Once he is finished he just casually walks away.
“When I first watched the CCTV I was just stunned, I felt total disbelief. I think even the police were shocked when we showed them that it wasn’t vandalism by a group of youths but instead what appears to be a middle-aged man on his own.”
Mr Sexton (30) said the damage was first noticed on Sunday morning by an employee who went to fetch a car that was booked for a test drive.
He said: “When he first saw the marks on it he thought that it was dirt but when he looked further he realised that it was actual damage. Then he saw that all the other cars had been attacked too.”
He posted photos of the damage on social media, asking anyone who may have information about the attack to contact police.
Mr Sexton, whose father established a garage in Sway in 1991 before taking over what was Gates car dealership in Brockenhurst three years ago, said some people had speculated that it must be a disgruntled customer or ex-employee.
But he said: “We are in the top 10 Skoda dealerships in the country for customer service out of 150. It may say Skoda above the front door but we are very much a family business.
“There is nothing we can think of involving a customer that would merit this attack in any way. Similarly, there has not been any issues with former employees.
“We had no threats at all. I would love to know who this man is and why he has done what he did.”
Mr Sexton said the only motive he could think of was annoyance at the dealership’s plans to carry out work to improve its forecourt.
He said: “There have been just a very few locals who had complained about that and the number of cars here, but even then there has not been a cross word said by anyone in over three months and we have done everything we can to sort out any issues. So I am still at a loss to be honest.”
The cars affected will be repaired by a local body shop but it could take up to three months to return them all to a saleable condition.
Mr Sexton added: “Everything is covered by insurance but there were customers who had already ordered some of the vehicles damaged and we don’t like letting people down.
“What is also horrid is how it has made everyone who works here feel.”
Police are investigating the attack and other local businesses, including Tesco, are scouring their CCTV from Saturday in the hope of spotting the man – described as ‘big built’ and wearing a heavy coat, hat and gloves.
Mr Sexton is also appealing for the driver of what appears to be a SUV with chrome roof racks seen driving along Sway Road as the man walked away from Meadens. It is hoped this person could help with a description.
Anyone who has any information should contact police on 101 quoting crime reference number 44180449955. Alternatively, call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.