by Gar Cole
My folks moved to Birmingham from Wales in 1972. Mom always had Minis - 7 of them over the years - and this story about one of them has become legendary in our family.
While my parents Gerry and Julie were at a Christmas Eve party in 1974, Mom's Mini 850 Super Deluxe was stolen from outside Sutton Coldfield Town Hall. It was reported to the fuzz at about 11pm when they noticed it was gone. Unhappily, they took a taxi home around midnight, their evening somewhat spoiled by the Mini being taken.
At around 2am they were woken by a telephone call from the police to say it had been found in Birmingham city centre. The officer who called recommended collecting it as soon as possible, in case of vandalism with so many Christmas revellers about.
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Another taxi took them to the street they had been directed to by the police, which was in the very heart of Birmingham City Centre - right outside Birmingham New Street railway station. As they arrived, they saw that the police had closed the street and put tape across the road.
My folks walked up to the young officer and pointed to the stolen blue Mini, telling him they were the "Cole" family that owned the car. The officer said "We have a problem Sir - there is a loud ticking coming from the car and we suspect it may have been stolen to plant a bomb in to be detonated in the city centre over Christmas, so as to cause maximum damage".
Now this was only a month or so after the Birmingham pub bombings, so the police were naturally on edge. My Dad - never being one to keep quiet - pointed out the IRA were unlikely to steal such a small car for the job and asked if he could have a look inside the car to see whether he could see anything suspicious.
Sensibly, the officer replied that it wasn't safe and the Bomb Squad were on their way. The specialist bomb disposal team soon arrived much to the dismay of my folks, who had visions of them blowing our Mini to Kingdom Come.
Two Bomb Disposal officers very carefully approached the Mini and started examining the outside and underside with mirrors on sticks, paying very close attention to the boot area. Suddenly one of them opened the drivers door and leaned in, picked up something from inside the car then began walking towards my folks and the two policemen who were watching the scene unfold from a safe distance.
Very calmly and softly the Bomb Squad officer said to his colleague "It's run out of petrol - that's why they abandoned it. The ignition is still on and its the bloody fuel pump that you can hear ticking!".
The young officer didn't appreciate my Dad roaring with laughter, but after another 10 minutes carefully checking the car, the Police fetched my folks a Jerry can of petrol and let them take the Mini home.
If I had a pound for every time that story's been told I'd be wealthy, but somehow it never gets old!
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