A THIEF who stole a van from York’s market and drove it through stalls before abandoning it and running off was today being hunted by police.

The drama in Newgate Market unfolded at about 5.35pm yesterday when a white Ford Transit van, which was parked outside Gert & Henry’s restaurant, was taken as traders packed up their goods for the day.

The thief initially tried to drive the van through a narrow gap towards the top of Shambles and King’s Square, but when he was unable to get through – with shoppers still walking through the area – he reversed and sped along the side of the market, hitting stalls and a power supply and damaging the side and roof of the van.

He then abandoned the vehicle and fled towards either Piccadilly or the Fossgate and Walmgate area. One stallholder, who did not want to be named, described the crime as “total madness”.

He said: “He just jumped into the van, sped round towards Shambles and tried to turn round the corner, but he couldn’t get the van through so reversed back into the market.

“The roof and the side of the van were ripped open as it was smashed into the stalls and got jammed underneath them, then he ran off.

“There must have been between 15 and 20 people, as well as traders, in the market at the time as well as people walking along Shambles.

“We just didn’t know what to think. Nobody was injured, but he could easily have driven into somebody.”

Market traders helped scenes-of-crime teams remove wooden decking from the spot where the van was left so it could be towed away as an investigation into the theft was launched. The market is fully open today despite last night's incident,

North Yorkshire Police said last night the suspect was believed to have been wearing a grey hooded top, a beanie hat and jeans.

Anybody who saw the theft or has information about it is asked to phone North Yorkshire Police on 101.