A car dealer whose van was stolen had to pay to get it back because police said they could not find the owner – despite his contact details being plastered all over it.

Jez Luff, 38, was charged £310 as his vehicle was impounded for three days after being stolen from outside a workmate’s home in Rustington.

When he called police to ask why he had not been contacted, they told him that they “had no means to contact him”.

Jez added: “I thought they must be joking, I’ve got my website and phone number plastered on three sides of the vehicle’.

“I’m not being funny but they are the guys who investigate these things, surely a little clue like my details on the side could have done the trick.”

When he realised the van was missing he called police who initially said they were unaware of any theft.

After pleading with them to check the database, they revealed that it had been found in nearby Wick and that Westbourne Motors had towed it to a secure lockup.

Jez said: “I asked about getting it back and they said I would have to pay for the three days it was impounded.

“I asked why I hadn’t been contacted and they said that they had no means of getting hold of me.

“I’m the victim of crime here and I’m being made to pay to get my van back.

“On top of that I had to pay for the repairs. So in total I’m almost £1,400 out of pocket.

“How can they be that stupid? It’s just ridiculous.”

A Sussex Police spokeswoman said: “Where an owner cannot be immediately identified or contacted, a vehicle is taken into safe storage under statutory powers and the owner/keeper notified of its location.

“In this case a landline telephone number for Love Cars was printed on the van, but due to the time of day it was not considered practical to call this number.

“There was no registered keeper associated with the vehicle, meaning officers were not able to identify a named owner to contact.

“As with all vehicle recoveries made, the owner in this case is welcome to write to the Chief Constable or the Vehicle Recovery Unit for his case to be reviewed.”