'Some motorists just fill up and drive off...it's a bit of a cheek'

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PETROL station staff have condemned motorists filling up their tanks and driving off without paying.

Portsdown Filling Station has suffered a spate of thefts in recent weeks.

And it's not youngsters doing the stealing, but 'respectable-looking' adults - and even the elderly.

Staff said they wanted to highlight the problem - and warn offenders they are being watched on CCTV with those images being handed to the police.

The warning comes as they are expecting the problem to get worse as petrol prices reach a record high, with a government fuel duty increase on New Year's Day and a VAT hike today.

The AA estimates that the two increases will add around 3.5p to the cost of a litre of both petrol and diesel.

Debbie Brown, the manager of the filling station in London Road, Widley, said: 'It all comes in phases, but we have had two this week.

'They just fill up and drive off. It's a bit of a cheek.

'We don't make much profit margin on fuel, so it's a real pain in the neck.

'It's going to get worse as prices have gone up with the VAT. The price increase is just going to create more problems.

'You get people who do all the petrol stations and then you just get randoms.

'People think they can get away it.'

The two recent incidents have been reported to the police.

On Christmas Eve, at 5.30pm, a man in a silver Vauxhall Astra tried to use a cash card to pay, but when it didn't work he said he would nip to the cash point.

He left a false address and registration number and drove off before the cashier could stop him.

And on Wednesday, December 29, at 9.30am, an elderly man in a Hyundai Sonata filled up his tank and made a swift getaway after checking no-one was looking.

Hampshire Police said theft of petrol is a serious offence.

A spokeswoman said: 'Leaving from a petrol station without paying is theft, and we will seek to prosecute anyone who does this.

'This is not a victimless crime as the knock-on effect is normally felt by those who pay for goods and services.

'We'd urge anyone who has information about these crimes to contact us on 101.'

The average price of unleaded petrol stands at 124.16p.

This time last year petrol was at 107.74p a litre. The AA estimates that in total, motorists are spending almost 10m more a day on petrol than this time a year ago.