Catalytic Converter Thief Crushed to Death After Car Rolls Off Jack

With prices of materials like palladium skyrocketing, crooks are stealing the car component left and right.

Catalytic Converter Removal at a Salvage Yard
Getty Images/iStockphoto—BanksPhotos

Of all the terrifying ways to die, doing so while committing a crime is maybe the most condemning. One English man found this out when he was crushed under a Vauxhall Astra while trying to remove and supposedly steal its catalytic converter. 

With prices of materials like palladium skyrocketing in recent months, it's no surprise that people have been stealing catalytic converters—which pack large amounts of the raw metals—in record numbers. In fact, this can sometimes cost victims around $2,000 when it comes to replacing the component. The temptation got the best of Gary Gray in Swindon, England in November, though the news was just announced this week. Gray, 38, was found under a vehicle at a local repair shop in the town after having been crushed while trying to steal the catalytic converter, police determined. 

According to the Swindon Advertiser, shopworkers came across Gray's legs sticking out from under the Astra after the jack became dislodged and the car fell, compressing his chest. JB Autos manager James Brown said the cars are typically left in gear with the handbrake off to prevent the brakes from seizing; this could've caused the car to roll initially.

Gray had been laying on a wooden panel to raise him closer to the car, which likely contributed to the accidental crushing. The torch Gray was using was still on, and a backpack with wrenches, tin foil, and a bottle of methadone inside was found nearby. 

Regardless of the payoff, stealing a catalytic converter isn’t for the faint of heart. To remove it, thieves have to crawl under the vehicle and use a high-power saw or cutting tool to remove the unit. Thefts in London more than doubled from 2018 to 2019, with hybrid vehicles being the most prized targets. Their dual power sources and reduced emissions make it less likely that the catalytic converter is corroded or damaged, which increases the value of raw materials.

Police say there are a number of ways to protect against would-be catalytic converter thieves. Marking the converter with a serial number will help make it distinctive, while using alarms and home cameras may help track down the perps after the fact. Automakers have stepped up their game as well, with companies like Toyota releasing devices that make it much harder to detach the boxes from vehicles as they’re parked.

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