A FORMER Mini worker was able to access the plant and steal brand new cars because he still had his security pass to the site.

Michael Jones, of Spring Lane, Littlemore, used the card to get into the Cowley plant on May 23 this year despite not being employed by the firm.

He made off with three Mini Coopers and a BMW X3 worth a total of £105,000.

Oxford Crown Court heard on Friday that the 28-year-old had last used the card to access the site legitimately on March 15.

He admitted four counts of theft and one of attempting to escape on May 31.

Judge Mary Jane Mowat told Jones, a father-of-two, that he was to serve 42 months on each of the thefts to run concurrently and another six months for attempting to escape custody.

Jones, who has 91 previous convictions, had been employed as a labourer on the site.

Charles Ward-Jackson, prosecuting, said management at the plant had spotted the theft on CCTV and the vehicles were driven off towards Horspath Road.

One of the Minis was found burnt out in Garsington and another was found abandoned next to Windrush Tower in Blackbird Leys, where Jones was arrested on May 30.

Mr Ward-Jackson said: “This defendant claimed that he had taken an overdose of heroin and was taken to hospital and while at hospital under police guard he tried to escape.”

More than two million cars have been made at the Mini plant since the production of the new Mini started in 2001.

In a separate hearing at Oxford Crown Court yesterday, a woman who lied to police to cover up the whereabouts of the car thief was sentenced.

The court heard that Nikkita Meredith, from Blackbird Leys, phoned the police on May 30 and told them Michael Jones was in a Moorbank property.

But the 22-year-old was calling from the Windrush Tower flat where Jones was hiding after police had just knocked on the door.

Judge Mary Jane Mowat gave Meredith a 12-month conditional discharge after she admitted obstructing a police officer in the execution of his duty.

Meredith, of Windrush Tower, was also told to pay £85 costs and a £10 victims’ surcharge.

The judge said: “It seems clear to me you were put on the spot and you, almost certainly, felt under pressure to do what you were asked to do.”

Mini refused to comment on the case.

Gary Sellwood, 26, of Field Avenue, Blackbird Leys, and John Jordan, 28, of Prunus Close, Blackbird Leys, were both sentenced to three years in jail after admitting four counts of theft on May 23 at Oxford Crown Court on August 9.

Sellwood also admitted a further count of theft and one count of making off without payment and Jordan admitted a further count of theft.

Stephen Pelczynski, 28, of Acacia Avenue, Greater Leys, has denied four counts of theft of motor vehicles on May 23 and two theft offences and his trial will begin on April 7.