Motorists jetting off on their summer holidays have been warned by police to watch out for “rogue” car parking agencies after more than 1,000 vehicles were discovered abandoned in a muddy field at Gatwick Airport.
Five car parking agencies are being investigated after the vehicles were found in a boggy field - many with the keys left in envelopes under the windscreen wipers - in full view of passers-by.
Holiday-makers had paid for their cars to be locked in secure parking places and for their keys to be kept safely until they returned home.
But police even found one unlocked car boot filled with boxes of keys, while other vehicles were caked in mud.
The field had no CCTV and during the search by police no staff from any of the five companies were seen, although the parking was advertised as secure.
Sergeant Darren Taylor, from Sussex Police, said: "The simplest advice we can give is to look on the Gatwick Airport website for approved parking operators, and not opt for a company just because it is the cheapest.
"The chances are if something seems too good to be true, it probably is.
"I was disgusted but not overly surprised by the condition of the cars, because this appears to be an ongoing issue in the area.”
Motorists are also being urged to beef up security in the wake of new figures showing that the number of cars being stolen is rising again, with experts saying organised gangs are stealing ten cars in particular.
And there is more bad news for drivers as three consecutive months of fuel price rises have left motorists having to pay around £5 more to fill up an average family car.