Theft of 1.5 million powerful painkillers from a truck as a UK motorways services leads to National Health Service ‘alert’

Last month’s highest profile cargo crime sparked national media exposure and an ‘alert message’ from the British National Health Service after 1,500,000 powerful painkilling tablets were stolen from a truck at Hartshead Moor Motorway Service Area (MSA) on 7 March.

West Yorkshire Police also issued a warning to the public not to take any of the drugs.

The Theft from Vehicle incident is believed to have occurred between 22.00hrs on 6 March and 05.00 the next day at the MSA, situated between junctions 26 and 26 of the M62 motorway in Bradford, UK. According to BBC News, 15,000 packs of the painkillers – each containing 100 tablets – were stolen from the vehicle, worth a reported €513,541.

Biggest loss of €1,900,000

This, however was not the biggest loss reported to TAPA EMEA’s Incident Information Service(IIS) in March. On 18 March, intelligence was received on the €1,900,000 loss of a shipment of car parts from a vehicle left in an unsecured parking lot in Haan in the German state of North-Rhine Westphalia, a regular hotspot for freight thefts. According to information shared with TAPA EMEA, the driver collected the cargo of multimedia control units and shock absorbers on the previous Friday from a Road Transportation Facility in the city of Herne before parking his vehicle on an industrial estate over the weekend. When he returned on the Sunday evening he discovered the truck had been broken into and 50% of its load had been stolen. An investigation is ongoing.

These two crimes were among 10 major cargo losses recorded by TAPA’s IIS last month. Altogether, these incidents alone produced a combined loss of €3,640,350 and an average value per crime of €364,035.

The overall total of newly-recorded cargo thefts fell year-on-year to 141, 10.7% lower that the figure for March 2017. However, once again, this was impacted by no new data so far from Dutch Police for March 2018. For the same month of last year, TAPA was notified of 61 crimes by Dutch law enforcement.

Of the 141 incidents in March, 117 or 82.9% provide financial data, producing a total loss of €6,487,888 and an average loss for the month of €55,452.

The remaining eight major crimes with a loss value of €100,000 or more were:


A Theft of Vehicle crime on 23 March involving the loss of event building equipment from an Authorised 3rd Party Facility in Crewe, Cheshire. Thieves reportedly entered a secured site and stole two loaded HGV semi-trailers.


TAPA’s IIS recorded this loss on 6 March as an Internal theft after a shipment of fuel injectors disappeared while en route from Germany. Due to the high risk nature of the shipment, the truck carrying the car parts was meant to operate non-stop from the supplier in Bamberg in northern Bavaria to the receiving plant in Hungary. However, when the shipment was immediately checked on arrival, parts were found to be missing, even though the driver was aware of no incidents during the transportation.


Two trailers loaded with aluminium were taken after thieves entered a secured Authorised 3rd Party Facility site in Brigg, North Lincolnshire, UK, on 27 March.


The truck hijacking heartland of Kempton Park in South Africa’s notorious Gauteng province claimed another victim on 6 March when a shipment of tobacco from stolen from a Services 3rd Party Facility. The suspects loaded the cargo into their own vehicle before fleeing the premises. However, in the early hours of the next morning, they were traced to a warehouse in nearby Alberton and arrested by police officers. Their truck with the stolen load was parked outside.    


Yet another forced entry into a secured yard resulted in the theft of a vehicle and a cargo of generators on 4 March. The incident took place at a Services 3rd Party Facility in Crick in the UK East Midlands. The thieves were able to steal the keys to an HGV tractor unit and hitch it up to a parked and loaded semi-trailer before making their escape.   


Seven offenders approached a parked and attended HGV semi-trailer at an unsecured parking location in Dartford, Kent, in the UK on 6 March and cut the vehicle’s tarpaulin curtain to access its cargo of fashion garments. When disturbed by the truck’s driver, they threatened him with a knife before taking away part of the load.


Another curtain-cutting incident, this incident on 26 March also took placed in an unsecured parking place, this time on an industrial estate in Northampton in the UK East Midlands. After slicing a hole in the vehicle’s tarpaulin side, the offenders stole a shipment of car radio systems.


This Theft from Vehicle on 2 March followed the same M.O. as the previously mentioned crime and involved the loss of motorcycle parts from a trucked parked in Peterborough in the East of England.   


In addition to the 10 major crimes, TAPA’s Incident Information Service (IIS) recorded 15 more incidents which a recorded loss value of between €50,000 and €100,000. Altogether, these produced a combined loss of €998,316 which includes:

·        €97,657 – Shoes and handbags stolen from a truck in an unsecured parking location in Basildon, Essex, UK, on 12 March after thieves cut through the vehicle’s curtain side

·        €87,321 – Thieves cut through the locks and seals of a truck parked at Leicester Forest East MSA in the UK East Midlands on 9 March and stole a cargo of televisions

·        €85,848 – Another crime at a UK MSA, medical products were stolen in this Theft from Vehicle at Medway MSA in Rainham, Kent, on 27 March

·        €77,696 – Televisions were also the target in this crime on 21 March after thieves cut the curtain side of a parked and attended truck in West Bromwich in the UK West Midlands

·        €64,789 – On 1 March, 263 cooking hobs were stolen from a truck at a motorway services in Fraga, Aragon, in Spain

·        €64,133 – A second loss involving cooking hobs, this Theft from Trailer incident reported to TAPA’s IIS on 20 March took place in a parking lot in Brussels, Belgium

·        €64,106 – Another curtain-cutting crime at the UK’s Leicester Forest East MSA. A shipment of alcohol was stolen on 28 March  

·        €62,712 – On 19 March, wine was taken from a truck, also parked at Leicester Forest East 

·        €60,432 – Keele MSA in Staffordshire, UK, was the location of this incident on 13 March, which saw thieves take fashion clothing from a parked truck

·        €60,151 – In Ashford in Kent, UK, on 27 March, computers/laptops were stolen from a truck which had stopped in an unsecured parking location on an industrial estate.


In March, the UK was the only country in the EMEA region to see its rate of recorded cargo crimes exceed double figures. The 105 incidents in the UK during the month represented 74.6% of the monthly total. There were eight newly-reported losses in both Germany and Sweden, which South Africa was the country with the fourth highest incident rate with four crimes notified to the IIS database.

Motorway Service Areas were the location of 46 or 43.8% of UK incidents recorded last month, with several incidents at:

·        Leicester Forest East between junctions 21 and 21A of the M1

·        Toddington between junctions 11 and 12 of the M1

·        Hartshead Moor between junctions 25 and 26 of the M62

·        South Mimms near junction 23 of the M25

·        Keele between junctions 15 and 16 of the M6 

Losses were recorded in 14 IIS product categories, led by:

·        Food & Drink – 26 incidents, 18.4% of the March total

·        Tobacco – 11 or 7.8%

·        Car Parts – 9 or 6.4%

·        Clothing & Footwear – 8 or 5.7%


·        Most reported location: Unsecured Parking – 111 or 78.8%

·        Most frequent M.O: Intrusion – 121 or 85.9%

·        More recorded incident: Theft from Vehicle – 105 or 74.5%

Intelligence shared with TAPA last month also revealed:

·        A narcotic gas is believed to have been used to send a driver into a deep sleep while thieves stole from a cargo of car parts on 27 March at a parking lot on the A14 between Dresden and Leipzig in Germany. The driver woke up after 10 hours and was experiencing several health problems. On checking his vehicle, he discovered the curtain tarpaulin had been cut and the products stolen

·        Yet another ‘blue light’ incident ended with a truck being hijacked in South Africa. This crime on 27 March in Cotswold, Port Elizabeth, resulted in the loss of alcohol products. The truck driver was detained at gunpoint until the theft was completed

·        In Salo, south west Finland, on 26 March, thieves stole 142 bicycles after breaking into a container onboard a trailer parked at a gas station

·        A Port Authority worker in Madrid is helping police with their enquiries after false documents were used to clear and release a container that had arrived from China with a shipment of cigarettes. The crime was discovered after the real driver arrived to collect the cargo. Police are still searching for a customs clerk who has failed to show up for work since the incident occurred

·        Car airbags were discretely removed from sealed transport boxes being transported from Romania to Germany. The incident, believed to involve a six-figure loss, involved the manipulation of the cargo’s security seals and was discovered when the shipment was checked at the receiving plant in Germany on 15 March

·        Six armed men hijacked a truck carrying frozen food while it was en route in Naples, Italy, on 6 March. However, the incident on the A1 in Casoria was witnessed by officers from the Carabinieri, who were able to block the truck’s escape, arrest the suspects and seize a number of weapons