SINGAPORE - An animal welfare activist has successfully recovered his stolen car, roughly 24 hours after it vanished in Johor Baru on Monday (May 16) evening.
But getting back the second-hand silver Toyota Mark X, which Mr Derrick Tan had bought just weeks ago, came at a hefty cost.
A source told The Straits Times that the 35-year-old had paid an undisclosed amount - believed to be a four-figure sum in Singapore dollars - to a car theft syndicate in exchange for its return.
And while his car was intact barring some damage to its ignition system, the cash and personal belongings that had been in it were missing. Only his passport, identification card, driving licence and some insurance papers for the vehicle 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 parking lots near the massage parlour were full, he parked a little further away. But when he emerged 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 the social media platform on Monday night.
He wrote: "Please help share! My car got stolen in JB Malaysia! Please help me share SLB7735P silver Color Toyota Mark X!! Please help me share esp friends in Malaysia! My passport and belongings are all in the car!"
The post, which went viral with over 8,000 shares, was subsequently deleted and a new Facebook post put up at 2.09am on Wednesday, announcing that his car had been retrieved and he had since returned to Singapore.
"A very expensive price paid for this lesson well learnt," wrote Mr Tan, while also thanking his family and friends who supported him during his ordeal. He added that "sometimes the dark side works faster than the bright side".
Speaking to The Straits Times on Tuesday afternoon before his car was recovered, Mr Tan said that many people have offered him money and help, even strangers who have never met him.
Some of his Facebook friends suggested that he trace the shops where the transactions were made, and ask them for CCTV footage of those who used the card.
The car thief had also been using his credit card, which Mr Tan quickly cancelled. But before cancelling the card, he received a few SMSes about the transactions made.
This was only Mr Tan's third trip to Johor with the Mark X. When he reported the case to the Malaysian police, they guessed that it was a Mark X once he told them it was a Toyota.
"The police said they (the thieves) love Toyota Mark X's as the parts are easy to sell," he said.
He added that police told him the car thieves have a device that can quickly unlock and disarm the sirens on Toyota and Honda cars.
"It's scary to lose your car in Johor Baru," he said. "I just want people to be more aware of the danger when they drive here."