Cape Town – A woman who left her vehicle at a car wash got the shock of her life when she returned to find it gone, Free State police said on Tuesday.
The woman, 46, handed over the keys to her Isuzu double cab bakkie at the Bethlehem business last week, Captain Zweli Mohobeleli said.
“The male washer, however, allegedly disappeared for three days with the vehicle without the owner knowing where he was.”
Police traced him to Bloemfontein, about 250km away. He was arrested on Friday for using a vehicle without the owner’s consent.
The owner of the car wash in Morelig, M’Seme John Qhesi, told News24 on Tuesday he was stunned when he found out what had happened.
“It was a shock. We have been operating for only a few weeks now and you can imagine the stress I was under when I found out,” he said.
Qhesi opened the business in March, advertising an interior and exterior clean from R45 for a light motor vehicle. They also had a “drop and go” service.
He said the staff member in question was off duty at the time. He had offered to drive the washed car back to the customer. When he arrived, they spoke about a possible mechanical problem with the car. She gave him money for the car wash and to get spare parts.
Qhesi said he dropped in on his business later that day to find the customer waiting for the car.
“I tried to get hold of the guy, but he was not answering.”
Over the next few days, a stressed Qhesi tried to soften the man up over the phone so he would reveal where he was.
“I think I drove around 600km trying to find him,” he said with a laugh.
He was extremely relieved when police tracked the bakkie down and returned it to the owner. He said he gave the man a job because they lived in the same area and he wanted to provide for his family.
“I have made sure that there are now guys I can rely on. I can promise you that,” Qhesi said.
Bethlehem station commander, Brigadier Nkaiseng Molefe, advised people not to leave their car keys at car washes, but rather to stay and wait until their car had been cleaned.