A GROUP of five youths led police officers on a chase lasting more than an hour after stealing a car from a petrol station forecourt.

The 16-year-old driver, and his four friends aged 12, 14, 15 and 16, snuck on to the forecourt of the BP garage on Cricklade Road on Monday night at around 9.40pm and took the wheel of a red Ford Fiesta.

They went on a joyride which came to an end some 80 minutes later when officers deployed a set of stinger spikes to bring them to a halt. The youngsters were arrested on suspicion of taking a vehicle without consent, better known as TWOC'ing, and have been bailed after being interviewed at Gablecross police station.

A Wiltshire Police spokesman confirmed the owner of the car had left the engine running as he went to withdraw cash and when he realised the youngsters had hijacked his car, he attempted to grab hold of the door and stop them pulling away.

But the hijackers managed to drive off, causing the owner to fall and injure his knee. The victim then called the police.

The youths sped along Crick-lade Road and turned onto Thamesdown Drive, driving past officers at 10.11pm.

Police gave chase but managed to lose the joyriders for almost an hour, prompting officers to call for back up from the police helicopter in Devizes.

Officers then traced them again heading back towards Cricklade Road on Thamesdown Drive and laid a stinger trap for them, which caused them to lose control and crash into a set of traffic lights near the Aldi supermarket junction at around 11pm.

A police spokesman said: “The owner left the vehicle at the pump to go and use the cash machine but unfortunately left the keys in the ignition.

“The five youths got in the car when the owner had his back to the car. It is not known how they have come to be on the forecourt at that time.

“As they attempted to leave the driver tried to hold the door but as they pulled away he fell over and suffered minor knee injuries.

“We were called and the car was spotted by officers at 10.11pm on Thamesdown Drive so they followed it in an attempt to pull them over but the car sped off.

“The helicopter was scrambled and they were later spotted heading back toward Cricklade Road on Thamesdown Drive.

“Stingers were deployed and just after 11pm the car went over the stingers and came to a stop. Some traffic lights were damaged near the Aldi turning.

“Stinger spikes are used rarely and are deployed only when absolutely necessary.

“Five youths, aged 12, 14, 15 and two 16 year olds, were found in the vehicle and were arrested on suspicion of taking a vehicle without consent.

“The youths have all been bailed pending further enquiries.”

Anyone with information should call police on 101. Alternatively, call Crime-stoppers on 0800 555 111 where information can be left anonymously if preferred.