A THIEF sped off when he was confronted by a Verwood man and his four-year-old daughter in a Ringwood street after trying to steal car numberplates.

Ten minutes later plates were stolen from another car at a nearby industrial estate, and police are warning drivers to be on their guard.

Electrician Andy Watson had left his silver Mercedes Vito van in Broadshard Lane to collect his daughter from Ringwood Day Nursery.

By the time Mr Watson came out with his daughter his G9 WAT rear registration plate was being ripped off.

Mr Watson shouted: “What do you think you’re doing?” and the man said he had got his trouser leg caught on it. He walked off, and got into a black Honda Civic and sped towards Southampton Road, narrowly missing another vehicle.

Mr Watson said: “I knew he was up to no good, but when you’re stuck in the middle of the road with a four-year-old what do you do?

“I know somebody must have seen him because he exchanged words with someone in a car blocking him the other way.

“The police tell me they think this sort of crime is carried out to steal fuel from garages using someone’s plates.”

Police are appealing for witnesses to the incident, between 5.30pm and 5.35pm on Thursday, January 17.

Ten minutes later police received the report of a theft of number plates from a silver Honda Civic parked on the Headlands Business Park.

Police believe the incidents are connected and likely to have been committed by the same offenders.

The plate was ruined by being ripped off and had to be replaced.

Mr Watson said: “Quite honestly, I think the thief was either brave or stupid carrying that out at that time of day in a busy street. I work locally so you would think someone would have recognised the plate if they had used it.”

The culprit is white, late 20s to early 30s, unshaven with blond stubble, 5ft 7 inches tall, of slender/muscular build. He wore a tartan flat cap with tweedy colours in it.

PC Garvin Couch said: “Theft of number plates doesn’t sound like a serious crime, but those number plates will then be used to facilitate another crime.”

Call PC Garvin Couch at Ringwood Police Station on 101 if you have any information.