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Monday, 4 February, 2002, 20:08 GMT
Blunkett's warning to car-jackers
Blunkett pledges tough penalties for car-jackers
David Blunkett has warned that anyone involved in car-jacking will be dealt with very severely.

The home secretary's warning came after a 41-year-old mother-of-three, named on Monday evening as Gloria Hamilton, was knocked unconscious by thieves who stole her Mercedes in south London on Friday.

Mr Blunkett told BBC Radio Five Live the number of car-jacking cases was a cause for concern.

"These trends take off, mobile phones, car-jacking suddenly in the headlines, you will get copycatting.

Gloria Hamilton
Gloria Hamilton is recovering in hospital

"We have got to send a very clear message and the message is - get involved in this and you will go down for a very long time."

Ms Hamilton was attacked on Friday after she went to speak with the occupants of a car which had collided with her 50,000 4x4 vehicle in Charlton, south-east London.

Detective Inspector Tim Grattan-Kane, of Greenwich Borough CID, said the company director, who is now recovering in hospital, was "very shaken... badly bruised and really quite traumatised by the whole incident".

He added: "We are viewing CCTV tapes both in the immediate vicinity and the route she travelled and we're trying to identify any car that may have followed her."

Police are appealing for help tracing the stolen Mercedes and the suspects' car.

'Totally unconscious'

Ms Hamilton was on the roundabout near the Makro store on Anchor and Hope Lane in New Charlton at 1415 GMT, when a car went into the back of her black Mercedes ML320, registration V792 FLM.

When she went to speak with the other motorist, a black man leapt out of the other car and punched her unconscious.

DI Grattan-Kane said: "She was punched so hard that she was rendered totally unconscious immediately and was lifted off the ground by the force of the blow."

Police advice
Drive with doors locked
Stay in car after collision
Go to police station if other driver is aggressive

Her attacker was aged about 30, about 5ft 10in tall and wearing dark clothing.

Together with another suspect, also black, he sped off in her car towards Woolwich Road. The other car was also driven away.

Passers-by helped the victim, who was unconscious for about five minutes.

Ms Hamilton, who suffered facial bruising, was taken to Queen Elizabeth Hospital at Woolwich where she was said to be comfortable but "traumatised" after the attack.

Police said the suspect car would have a damaged front nearside wing and bumper, although a description of the vehicle has not been issued.

Mr Grattan-Kane warned motorists involved in collisions to keep hold of their keys if they left their car.

Spate of incidents

The incident came just days after estate agent Timothy Robinson was stabbed to death in a possible car-jacking incident in Battersea.

The 25-year-old was stabbed several times after stopping to help two men who had asked for directions.

Essex Police are also hunting the perpetrators of two car-jackings, unconnected with the London incidents.

On 31 January at 2240 a new BMW was stolen between Basildon and Loughton after two Asian men driving a silver Honda bumped into it from behind.

The male driver was threatened with a handgun.

Police believe the same pair may have been behind an earlier attempted car theft in Loughton on the same night, which was not successful.

Both suspects in both incidents are described as Asian, 5ft 10in to 6ft, slim, with short dark hair, and possibly wearing leather jackets.

Essex Police are still looking for witnesses and no arrests have been made.

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The BBC's Margaret Gilmore
"Reducing violent crime is a priority"

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See also:

03 Sep 01 | UK
Man shot in car-jacking
29 Aug 01 | UK
Police target gun gangs
19 Jul 01 | UK
Woman struck in car-jacking
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