Vintage at Heart at a recent fair, including some of the stolen stock.

Enjoy unlimited access: just £1 for 12 weeks

Subscribe now

On April 4, Jim Horlock of Vintage at Heart had loaded his van – a Mercedes-Benz Sprinter – with stock, planning to get an early start on the way to a fair the next day. The van was in the driveway of his Tiptree home and was locked with the fobs inside the house.

The next morning it had vanished.

Inside had been an estimated £15,000-18,000 worth of stock, along with exhibiting items such as display units, lights, clothing rails, gazebo accessories and Horlock’s Vintage at Heart logos. The additional loss amounted to roughly £1000.

Although he reported the loss to the police who duly investigated, the case was closed on May 20.

Horlock said: “What has since become most apparent is how much more frequent these thefts are occurring, particularly among antiques dealers who trade at fairs, and whose stock can be viewed by potential thieves at those fairs and can be seen packing their stock away in their vehicles which can then be targeted.

“One colleague told of a dealer in his 80s driving back from a Norfolk antiques fair. He stopped at a layby for a cup of tea. A car drew up, some men got out and proceeded to rob the elderly man of all his stock.

“The police said they can use trackers on those targeted vehicles, and the ‘professional’ criminals have software to pick up the signal on vehicles that can open and start them, especially those like our van with a plastic key fob.”

For now, Horlock and his wife have been forced to cancel most of the 12 or so remaining fairs they had booked for the year. The exception is an event at Sandown Park where they plan to fill a two-square-metre pitch  far smaller than the six-square metre pitch size they often take – with larger items from their home that they have been waiting to sell.


Vintage at Heart at a recent fair, including some of the stolen stock.

At the time of writing, Essex Police had found and discovered the vehicle, but it was not yet known if any items had been left inside.

In the meantime, the dealer has appealed to members of the trade to keep an eye out for his stock and has asked that anyone with information get in touch with the police, who are keeping the case on file and can reopen it.

Horlock added: “I hope this will alert everyone. Although there is no foolproof way to stop theft, it can be deterred by using extra security measures. Nobody can afford to be complacent. It happened to us after doing fairs for 10 years; we were eventually targeted. Don’t let it be you the next time.”

The crime reference number is 42/54349/24. Alternatively, information can be given anonymously by contacting Crimestoppers on 080 555 111.