Stolen digger sparks helicopter search on Hampstead Heath
A digger was spirited away from a building site in Hampstead, sparking a full-blown police chase.
Neighbours sounded the alarm at 10.30pm on Tuesday night when a JCB was pinched from a fleet of industrial trucks parked up in Willoughby Road. The getaway driver made it as far as the Vale of Health along East Heath Road before police response teams caught up with it.
When officers approached the stationary vehicle at a set of temporary traffic lights, a man standing nearby fled into the undergrowth on Hampstead Heath to escape the police.
Officers called for back-up and a Met Police helicopter was scrambled.
One eyewitness said: “There was a big commotion outside with police everywhere and the digger just sitting there. It was still there in the morning.
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Using thermal imaging from the helicopter, officers traced a man who was hiding on the Vale of Health.
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Police arrested a 24-year-old man and took him to a central London police station for questioning on suspicion of theft of a vehicle.
He was released and is not expected to be charged.
The JCB, belonging to a firm in Leicestershire, was recovered in the morning.