NIGHT-SHIFT workers caught a suspected fuel thief red-handed – and locked him in his car until police arrived.
Mirfield-based textile firm John Cotton’s had been plagued by diesel thefts and had asked employees to keep a look out.
When one of the drivers spotted an intruder lurking in the shadows on Thursday night he told his supervisor and four workers headed outside.
Night shift team leader Danny Norcliffe, 30, of Crosland Moor, and colleagues Ian Firth, Dave Mann and Dave Blyth scoured the yard but found no-one.
They then saw a car near the firm’s secure car park, off Huddersfield Road, suddenly turn off its headlights.
They ambled down the lane to the car park – then pounced on the unsuspecting driver.
Quick-thinking Danny pulled open the driver’s door and snatched the keys out of the ignition.
He then slammed the door and locked it.
The car, a Seat Alhambra, contained cans with some 200 litres of diesel, worth about £300.
Police were called and the four men stood guard at either side of the car until officers arrived 10 minutes later.
Two men were later arrested on suspicion of fuel theft.
Danny told how the firm – Europe’s largest manufacturer of pillows – had been repeatedly hit by fuel thefts.
“There were thefts on Wednesday night, Thursday teatime and Thursday night and a few of us decided enough was enough,” said Danny.
“One of the shunter drivers saw someone ducking behind a vehicle but by the time we got out he had disappeared.
“We saw a car suddenly turn its lights off so we wandered down innocently.
“Then we crossed the road and I grabbed the keys and locked the door.”
Danny and the others surrounded the car but the man made no attempt to escape.
“I think he realised he was going nowhere until the police arrived,” said Danny.
“It took them about 10 minutes, which felt like an eternity at the time.
“All he seemed interested in was sending text messages.”
Danny shrugged off his heroics and said: “I don’t think the company would advise us to have a go but I just saw an opportunity and took it.”
The workers were praised by company secretary Mr Stephen Swalwell who said: “They have done a fantastic job. We are lucky to have such good people working here.”
Mr Swalwell said fuel thefts had gone “crazy” in recent months and staff had been asked to be extra vigilant.
A spokesman for Kirklees police confirmed they were called out at 11.16pm on Thursday.
Two men had been arrested on suspicion of theft after diesel was stolen from three vehicles.
He said one man was detained after being suspected of stealing diesel from a HGV in the yard and a second man was arrested nearby.
The men, aged 53 and 28, remained in police custody yesterday and inquiries continued.