A martial arts expert channelled his inner Liam Neeson when he hunted down and tackled a man driving his stolen car around the streets of Coventry.
Imran Farooq told how he used a very particular set of skills to track down the man driving his wife’s car after it was stolen in a burglary last Christmas.
He took to social media, asking for sightings of the car – which contained their only copy of an ultrascound scan of their little girl – and the community offered an overwhelming response.
Imran spent two days following tips, casing out what he recognised as the driver’s regular haunts and eventually, performed a citizen’s arrest after confronting him – even though the driver was armed with a baseball bat.
Patrick Cawley, 37, of Roselands Avenue, Coventry, was convicted of dangerous driving, driving with no insurance and driving without a licence on October 23 at Warwick Crown Court.
He was sentenced to 12 months in prison, as well as being disqualified from driving for two years. He will need to take an extended retest before being allowed back on the roads.
In a separate incident he was convicted of attempted burglary, for which he received an 18 month jail sentence, to run consecutively, meaning he will serve a total of two-and-a-half years behind bars.
Imran had just moved into the house in Coundon with his wife Rachel, last December. The pair had been busy decorating and left a window open to air out a room after they had painted it.
The next morning, December 23, they realised Rachel’s handbag, containing her car keys, was missing, along with her car.
“We rang the police but, at the time, we just thought, that’s it, there’s not much we can do,” said Imran, who runs a martial arts gym in Coventry.
“It was actually the police officer who said to us, quite often they will park the car up somewhere to see if there’s a tracker on it, so it’s worth driving round to see if you can find it or putting something on social media asking for sightings.”
“It was like he was on a rampage”
Within 15 minutes Imran received a call from someone saying they’d spotted the car and that it was being driven recklessly.
Over the next few days Imran was inundated with sightings and a pattern began to emerge, with many people saying the driver had almost hit them.
“I felt responsible,” Imran said. “It was my car, someone could have been seriously hurt or even killed. It was like he was on a rampage around Coventry.
“Plus, I gave that car as a gift to Rachel, there were sentimental things in there like our ultrasound picture.”
The couple have since had a little girl, Inaaya.
Police were also carrying out enquiries, and managed to track the driver down no less than three times – but he kept getting away.
“He was an absolute lunatic,” Imran claimed.
“I thought, ‘this is my chance'”
Later that first day, Imran received a phone call saying that the driver and car were on Leicester Causeway. He hopped into his car and drove straight there.
“I kept the police involved the whole time,” he said. “My goal was to get him arrested.”
Imran pulled his car up to wait for the police, and then decided to turn his car around so he could keep the driver in his sight.
“He then did a three point turn as well and all of a sudden we were facing each other,” Imran said. “He pulled into a gap to let me pass and I just thought ‘this is my chance’.
“I jumped out of the car but in a split second he had driven off.”
Imran later spotted the driver again, but claimed he was driving so recklessly he decided not to try to keep up.
“I felt dreadful,” he said. “Like I’d had my chance and missed it. I was sure after that he would get rid of the car. I pretty much decided to give up.”
“Every time, I was just a few minutes behind him”
But the next day, Imran got another phone call, from a friend who owns a takeaway. The driver had been in – and Imran hoped that meant he had been caught on CCTV.
“It was frustrating – every time, I was just a few minutes behind him,” Imran claims.
So he decided to change tack. Instead of following tips, Imran decided to stay in one place in the hope of another sighting – and he chose a road the driver seemed to frequent: Leicester Causeway.
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“I pulled up, and I was so tired by this point,” Imran said. “I think I was actually falling asleep. And then all of a sudden I heard this ‘whoosh’ as a car whizzed past.”
The car was going so fast that by the time Imran looked up, the driver was already at the other end of the street. He called the police and began to follow.
As he went down the road, towards George Eliot Street, he realised the driver had turned and was facing him.
“I think he recognised me,” Imran claims. “He blasted the car in reverse and tried to take a corner at high speed.”
The car span off another vehicle, overturning in the process.
“I got out because I wanted to check he was ok, and also make sure he didn’t try to run off,” Imran said. “All of a sudden he jumped out of the car and started swinging a baseball bat at my head.”
Imran claims he was hit twice in the arm before managing to wrestle the bat off his attacker.
Then he ran off.
“I followed, but at a distance, because I didn’t know if he had another weapon,” Imran said.
“He ran onto Foleshill Road and, when I had established that he wasn’t carrying any other weapons, I tackled him to the ground.
“He swung a few punches at me and was trying to bite, and spit, but I pulled him down.”
“I felt euphoric bringing this person to justice”
Imran shouted at passers-by to call the police, who quickly turned up.
“It was honestly euphoric,” he said. “It was the best feeling to bring this person to justice.”
Imran praised the members of the public who had reported their sightings, and also the police, who he said “kept in constant communication with me”.
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This Christmas, Imran is looking forward to a quieter, more traditional celebration with his young family.
As well as the new baby, he has two sons, aged 12 and 10.
“They were affected by what happened,” he said. “They are constantly double checking the doors and windows.
“But the good thing is that they feel so much better because their dad caught the criminal, and that gives them some confidence.”