A mechanic who stole vehicles and car parts from victims in the Bournemouth and Poole area has been jailed.

Matthew Stephen Gale, aged 32 and of Poole, was sentenced at Bournemouth Crown Court on Tuesday 16 April 2024 to four years in prison after admitting six theft offences.

The thefts occurred between Saturday 16 April and Thursday 7 July 2022.

Gale’s first victim knew the defendant from when he had previously worked at a garage in Poole. In April 2022 the victim contacted Gale to carry out work on his Subaru Impreza.

The victim made payments of £340 up front for the work but, despite repeated delays and attempts to contact Gale, he did not return the vehicle.

The victim was subsequently told on Sunday 12 June 2022 that the vehicle had ‘gone missing’. The police were contacted and the car was located by officers on Sunday 28 August 2022 at another address in Poole.

Gale’s second victim contacted him via Facebook in May 2022 after being recommended his services and arranged for bodywork repairs to be carried out on her Peugeot 207.

Gale asked for £900 up front for the work and collected the vehicle from her, stating it would take around two weeks to complete.

The victim paid the money but after three weeks she contacted Gale and was met with a range of excuses as to why the work had not been done.

After contacting police and making her own enquiries, the vehicle was subsequently located on Newtown Business Park in Poole and appeared to be in a worse state that when it had gone off to be repaired.

A further victim had parked his vehicle, a Volkswagen Golf that had a broken window, on Dean Park Road in Bournemouth at the end of May 2022 and was planning to get it towed to his parent’s address.

He subsequently discovered the vehicle had been moved but was not able to confirm who had moved it.

Enquiries by the DVLA revealed the vehicle had been scrapped and the victim contacted the scrapyard in Poole where this had been done.

The scrapyard reported that it had purchased the vehicle from a seller, who provided a passport in the name of Matthew Stephen Gale by way of documentation.

Another victim had a Ford Transit panel van stolen after parking it in Marlborough Road in Bournemouth in June 2022. The theft was reported to police and enquiries revealed it had also been sold for scrap by the defendant at the same scrapyard in Poole.

A fifth victim, who knew of the defendant through others, broke down in Alder Road in Poole in June 2022 and Gale attended to assist.

He gave them a lift home and said he would pick up the vehicle and carry out any necessary work. Gale later contacted the victim and told her that the Ford S Max needed a new engine and she paid him £500 so he could arrange the repairs.

Despite regularly chasing Gale, she received no further update from the defendant and eventually reported the matter to police. The vehicle was subsequently located and was again found to be in a worse condition than when she had last seen it.

The final incident involved a man who advertised a red Mercedes Sprinter van for sale on Facebook Marketplace. In June 2022 the defendant attended his address and verbally agreed to buy the vehicle, which was advertised for £5,995.

He asked to test drive the vehicle, before driving off in it and failing to return. The victim made efforts to contact Gale but was met with a range of excuses as to why he was unable to return it.

He subsequently reported the theft to the police, and the vehicle has still not been located.

Detective Constable Steven Davis, of BCP CID, said: “Matthew Gale is a serial offender who exploited the trust his victim’s placed in him as a mechanic and simply failed to carry out the work they had paid him for in good faith.

“We are committed to holding offenders such as Gale to account for their criminal activity, and we have worked hard to compile evidence to bring before the court so he could face the consequences of his actions.”

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