Activist 'pays to get stolen car back'

Mr Tan (above) found his second-hand Toyota Mark X (right) missing after going for a massage in Johor Baru on Monday night with his friends. He said Malaysian police told him it is common for thieves to steal this particular car model.
Mr Tan found his second-hand Toyota Mark X (above) missing after going for a massage in Johor Baru on Monday night with his friends. He said Malaysian police told him it is common for thieves to steal this particular car model.PHOTOS: DERRICK TAN, ST FILE
Mr Tan (above) found his second-hand Toyota Mark X (right) missing after going for a massage in Johor Baru on Monday night with his friends. He said Malaysian police told him it is common for thieves to steal this particular car model.
Mr Tan (above) found his second-hand Toyota Mark X missing after going for a massage in Johor Baru on Monday night with his friends. He said Malaysian police told him it is common for thieves to steal this particular car model.PHOTOS: DERRICK TAN, ST FILE

Animal welfare advocate, who lost car in JB, paid 'four-figure sum to car theft syndicate'

An animal welfare activist recovered his stolen car roughly 24 hours after it vanished in Johor Baru on Monday evening.

But Mr Derrick Tan, who had bought the second-hand silver Toyota Mark X just weeks ago, paid a heavy price to get it back.

A source told The Straits Times that the 35-year-old paid a four-figure sum in Singapore dollars to a car theft syndicate.

And, while his car was intact, barring some damage to its ignition system, the cash and personal belongings that had been in it were gone.

Only his passport, identification card, driving licence and some insurance papers remained.

Mr Tan's ordeal began when he went for a massage with three friends at Yisheng Reflexology in Jalan Serampang, about 7km from the Woodlands Checkpoint, at 8.15pm.

As it was late and the carparks near the massage parlour were full, he parked a little further away. But when he returned two hours later, his car had disappeared.

Mr Tan, who has a substantial following on Facebook due to his animal welfare work at Voices For Animals, posted a plea for help on Facebook on Monday night.

He wrote: "Please help share! My car got stolen in JB Malaysia! Please help me share SLB7735P silver colour Toyota Mark X!! Please help me share esp friends in Malaysia! My passport and belongings are all in the car!"

The post, which had more than 8,000 shares, was subsequently deleted and a new one posted just after 2am yesterday said that his car had been retrieved and he had since returned to Singapore.

Mr Tan wrote: "A very expensive price paid for this lesson well learnt." He also thanked his family and friends who supported him.

Speaking to The Straits Times on Tuesday afternoon before his car was recovered, he said many people, even strangers, had offered him money and help.

The car thief had also been using his credit card, which Mr Tan quickly cancelled.

Some of his Facebook friends suggested that he trace the shops where the transactions were made and ask them for closed-circuit television footage of those who used the card.

When Mr Tan reported the case to the Malaysian police, they guessed that his car was a Mark X once he told them it was a Toyota.

"The police said they (the thieves) love Toyota Mark Xs as the parts are easy to sell," he said.

He added that the police told him the car thieves have a device that can unlock and disarm the sirens on Toyota and Honda cars quickly.

He said: "It's scary to lose your car in Johor Baru. I just want people to be more aware of the danger when they drive there."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 19, 2016, with the headline 'Activist 'pays to get stolen car back''. Print Edition | Subscribe