MORE than 500 East Lancashire motorists drove off without paying for fuel last year, new figures have revealed.

The figure is at a five-year high, and more than 90 per cent got away with it, data released under the Freedom of Information Act revealed.

The thieves have been slammed by Hyndburn and Haslingden MP Graham Jones, who said they are responsible for forcing up prices at the pump.

Last year, 504 motorists failed to pay for petrol or diesel, compared to 452 in 2008.

Despite more thefts being reported, the number of offenders being caught fell from 55 in 2008 to just 50 last year.

Last week, a 41-year-old Rishton woman admitted stealing £136 worth of diesel from a Great Harwood petrol station. Susan Jones, of Bridge Street, filled her car with fuel before driving off.

Inspector James Black, from Lancashire Police, said: “It is important to point out that the police takes business crime seriously.”