High-speed car chases are thrilling to watch. We see them in nail-biting compilation videos and our favorite action movies. But police pursuits can also turn deadly. Though most suspects fleeing in cars are apprehended, some give cops a run for their money.
Take, for instance, the case of a man who made headlines for driving a stolen Audi RS5 so fast that a police helicopter could barely keep up.
The case of the stolen Audi RS5
Ben Westwood, 33, is also known as “Britain’s fastest getaway driver” after having set the record by evading police in a stolen Audi RS5 going 180 mph in 2011. Footage of the incredible chase (posted on the SWNS YouTube channel) was captured by police helicopters, which Westwood also almost evaded.
He and a small crew of other suspects attempted to rob a cash machine but stopped when officers spotted them. Rather than surrender, Westwood and an accomplice hopped into the car and sped off.
The Audi RS5 — one of only two in the United Kingdom — had been modified with a Lamborghini motor and could hit a top speed of 200 mph. Westwood gunned the engine and weaved through traffic for more than an hour while police cars and helicopters followed.
After traveling more than 65 miles during the chase, Westwood abandoned the car and fled on foot. Police found him hiding in an apartment in Wolverhampton. After his apprehension, officers seized the Audi RS5 and linked it to 15 other robberies.
His trial later revealed that the suspects had stolen the Audi because it was powerful enough to outrun standard-issue police vehicles. They had also spray-painted it with different colors twice and changed its plates to disguise it from authorities.
The consequences of the Audi RS5 driver’s crimes
A court tried Westwood for conspiracy to rob and steal, as well as dangerous driving. According to The Mirror, he was found guilty of those charges at Wolverhampton Crown Court in August 2012 and sentenced to nine years in prison. He was also banned from driving for four years.
Though nearly a decade might seem like a long time, Westwood got time for not only the chase but also leading multiple robbery attempts. Plus, he had recently completed a four-and-a-half-year prison sentence for his role in a gang that stole luxury vehicles.
Given the nature of his crimes, law enforcement authorities suspected he had committed more than the 15 known robberies.
“The offenses we have been able to prove are probably just the tip of the iceberg of the true number of those that this car was involved in,” a West Midlands Police spokesman noted, according to the Daily Mail.
And though Westwood took the lion’s share of the punishment, four other members of his crew received prison sentences of at least three years.
Car thefts in context
Though the owner of the stolen Audi RS5 got their car back, most vehicle thefts don’t end as happily. Many owners never see their stolen possessions again. And in rare cases, decades pass before they turn up. In one extraordinary scenario, a man was reunited with his stolen Camaro after a whopping 33 years. And in another, the owner of a stolen Ferrari 308 GTS did not see his car again for three decades.
Recent data indicates that if your car is stolen, you have about a 12% chance of getting it back in the same condition and a 33% chance that it returns damaged. Most recovered stolen cars are found within 48 hours. However, most stolen vehicles take a year or longer to recover. Many are sold for parts or used in other crimes, so there’s a good chance you may never see your car again, and if you do, it will be damaged beyond repair.
To keep your car out of the hands of someone like Ben Westwood, lock the doors, roll up the windows, and install an alarm system, kill switch, or GPS tracker. Otherwise, you might find yourself watching footage of your car barrelling down the highway as a suspect tries to evade police.