Would-be thief trying to steal catalytic converter killed as car falls on him

A would-be thief was crushed to death when a car fell on him as he tried to steal its catalytic converter, an inquest heard.

Gary Gray, 38, died after the jack holding up the Vauxhall Astra came loose – causing the full weight of the vehicle to slam down and suffocate him.

The inquest was told that he had been attempting to steal a part of the car's exhaust after breaking in after hours, which could then be sold on for around £60.

A backpack containing a spanner and cooking oil and a lit torch were also next to the body – with a cutting tool still attached to the blue vehicle.

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A police investigation determined the incident was non-suspicious and a coroner concluded that the death was accidental.

The grisly discovery was made by an employee of JB Autos in Swindon, Wilts., as he opened up for work on November 15 last year.

Vilfredo Fernandes had also shut up the property the night before and told the inquest that it was empty then.

He said in a statement: "I finished work on the fourteenth at the usual time, around 6pm.

"Prior to finishing, I locked up the compounds, making sure that there were no customers around.

"The next day, I arrived around 8am and I could see a pair of legs on the floor sticking out from under a car which had a black car-jack near the front wheel.

"I called my boss, told him what happened, and he told me to call an ambulance."

Paramedics then arrived and pronounced Mr Gray dead at the scene.

James Brown, manager of JB Autos, suggested that this was not the first time someone had tried to sneak into the garage compound, located on an industrial estate.

He said in a statement: "There is a six-to-eight feet-high fence around each compound and I keep scrap cars for spare parts inside the second.

"Over the years I have had a number of thefts, so I keep the vehicles unlocked to stop people damaging them and smashing the windows before they realise there’s nothing valuable inside them.

"The vehicles are left in gear with the handbrake off to stop the brakes seizing."

It is believed that this caused the car to move while Mr Gray was fiddling with the Vauxhall’s underside – with fatal consequences.

Sergeant Scott Anger, of Wiltshire Police, investigated the death.

He said in a statement: "He was in the process of stealing a catalytic converter but his chest had been compressed. He had gained entry illegally overnight.

"This was not an industrial accident and was filed as a non-suspicious sudden death.

"The car jack had been dislodged. He had placed a wooden panel under him to prevent him lying on the cold ground.

"This raised his body closer to the car, which was left in neutral and would have rolled off the car jack because it was not secure."

Mr Gray lived in Swindon, Wilts., working as a mechanic.

A pathologist ruled that he had no obvious external injuries but his left rib had been fractured.

The car pressing down upon him had restricted his chest movements and caused him to asphyxiate.

No toxicology report was available but a printout from his GP surgery suggested that he had a drug dependence problem.

His partner, who had known him for six years, identified his body.

Assistant coroner Ian Singleton ruled that the death had been accidental.

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