More than 100 vehicles abandoned by a now-defunct airport parking company have been returned to their rightful owners by police.
The force had received several reports in recent days of passengers booking their cars into the care of Gatwick First Parking, but not having their vehicles returned to them on their arrival at Gatwick Airport.
The company, which is not a Gatwick Airport approved meet-and-greet parking company and has no relationship with the airport, appears to have since ceased trading, according to Sussex Police.
Through research and intelligence, police have located approximately 120 vehicles at various sites in Sussex and Surrey.
Further checks identified the company office at an address in Surrey, where the keys for vehicles which had been collected from passengers departing from Gatwick Airport were left.
While this is a civil matter – meaning Sussex Police has no control to seize the keys or the cars – officers made extensive enquiries to contact the landowners and partner agencies, including Gatwick Airport Ltd and trading standards officers from Surrey County Council, and have facilitated the release of more than 100 vehicles to their owners.
The landowners, assisted by third parties, were then able to contact passengers to arrange collection of their cars.
Despite the success, there are still a number of keys – approximately 30 – to vehicles which have yet to be located.
The owners of these outstanding vehicles will be contacted by police and kept up to date with any progress.
Sergeant Darren Taylor, of the Gatwick Policing Team, said: “It’s essential that Gatwick Airport passengers use official on-airport parking, or companies registered with Gatwick’s off-airport approved parking operators scheme only, to avoid this sort of thing from happening.
“We’re carrying out further enquiries to locate the outstanding vehicles, and the owners of those vehicles will be contacted and kept up to date. Our priority is to find and return their vehicles to them as soon as we possibly can.
“We’re also extremely grateful to everyone who has assisted us in contacting passengers to reunite them with their vehicles. Without their support, we would have had a far harder task.”
If you are planning to leave your car at the airport, please ensure you check the Gatwick Airport approved parking operators online at www.gatwickairport.com/parking/other-parking-options/operator-scheme/