A SHOCKED motorist was landed with a massive bill from the council – for damage caused by thieves who stole her car.

Linda Sampson, of Springfield Road, received a letter from Weymouth and Portland Borough Council demanding £421.39 to pay for a road sign, which was destroyed by vandals as they attempted to steal her Citroen Saxo.

As the Echo reported, the car, which had a steering lock on the handle, was driven down Springfield Road and crashed into a nearby lamppost and road sign on April 13.

Mrs Sampson believes that unable to rip off the steering lock, the thieves shunted the car deliberately.

The Dream Cottages cleaner was told by the council to forward the invoice for damage on to her insurers.

Mrs Sampson, aged 51, said: “I can’t believe it.

“When I first got the letter, I called the council and the woman said: ‘It was your car that damaged the sign.’ “I said: ‘I wasn’t in the car at the time – it was stolen.’ “She said: ‘Well, someone’s got to pay for it.’ “What about the thugs who stole my car in the first place?”

Because the incident which led to the damaged road sign was a crime, Mrs Sampson’s insurers, the Post Office, will have to make further enquiries as to whether to pay the bill.

A spokesman for the company said: “The council should not, in any circumstance, have contacted Mrs Sampson directly.

“The responsibility lies with the person that had caused the accident, so in this case, the person who stole the car.

“If the police have been unable to find those involved, then the cost may be picked up by the insurance company, but not by owner of the vehicle.

“We have asked Mrs Sampson to send us all the correspondence she has received from the council so that we can get this matter resolved as quickly as possible.”

The council has now sent a letter of apology to Mrs Sampson for the mistake.

Coun Mike Goodman, chairman of the council’s management committee, said: “The borough council has sent a letter of apology directly to Mrs Sampson for wrongly asking her to forward an invoice to her insurers.

“This was a mistake and we are now looking at a number of other routes to recoup the cost of the damage to the road sign.

“This may include civil action against the person found responsible for taking the vehicle or making a claim through the council’s own insurance policy.”