TWO elderly German tourists were left traumatised after thieves hijacked their car when they stopped at the scene of a crash.
The fourth carjacking incident in the past 11 days sparked concern about a spate of copycat crimes, although gardai are satisfied they are not connected.
The German couple were driving a black Mercedes C180 car with German registration plates when they spotted a traffic accident at Clara Vale in Rathdrum, Co Wicklow, yesterday afternoon.
A Volvo car had crashed into a bus. Some of the occupants of the Volvo flagged down the Germans and forced them from the car.
The female passenger in the Mercedes received minor injuries as she was being rushed out of the vehicle.
Gardai later established that the Volvo had been used following a burglary in the Athy area.
Shortly afterwards, the stolen Mercedes was located in Tullow, Co Carlow, and forensic investigators were called in.
Gardai believe the four men may be members of a travelling gang, who have carried out a spate of burglaries across Leinster.
Meanwhile, a serial criminal has been questioned by gardai about a separate car hijacking in which a female motorist and two children were held captive and robbed. The suspect, who is from west Dublin, was arrested in Tipperary and taken to Terenure garda station in Dublin.
He was questioned about the incident in which the woman was threatened with what she believed to be a gun, and forced to hand over more than €500 after making a withdrawal from an ATM machine on Friday afternoon.
The suspect, in his 40s, is well known to gardai and has served a jail sentence for two bank robberies as well as possession of a firearm, stealing cars, hijacking a car and escaping from custody.
The man has also spent time in prison in the UK after being convicted of robbery.
The incident took place as the woman was driving with her eight-year-old son and his nine-year-old friend.
She stopped her grey BMW estate at the junction of Zion Road and Orwell Road in Terenure and had left a window open.
A man ran over to the vehicle, popped the lock on the door and jumped into the car.
The man forced her to drive home and the terrified woman was then ordered to go into her home while the man stayed in the car with the two boys.
She returned with two cards, and then had to drive the hijacker to an ATM in Rathgar where she withdrew more than €500.
She was then forced to drive to Portobello, where the man jumped out of the vehicle.
In recent days there has been a surge in carjacking incidents, with four reported cases. More than half of Irish drivers want a security feature on cars that 'tasers' prospective thieves.
Some 56pc of motorists said in a poll they would be in favour of 'Robotic Offensive Security', which shocks the thief leaving them immobile for 30 minutes.
And 78pc of the 16,500 respondents said they had no sympathy for this type of criminal and would back this kind of deterrent.
But some respondents to the AA's Motor Insurance poll were horrified by the notion of paralysing would-be thieves.
One person labelled such a security feature as "barbaric".
Conor Faughnan of the AA said: "We work very hard in this country to try to make a living by honest means. The car is such a huge financial investment, and so essential to modern life, that when some scumbag tries to steal it from you, anger is a very natural reaction."