Desperate drivers are roaring off without paying for petrol in a crime surge costing service stations up to $300,000 a week in Australia, according to the country’s biggest selling daily newspaper, the Herald Sun. Record pump prices are being blamed for the rise of ’mum and dad’ petrol thieves.

Station operators say petrol prices of up to $1.50 a litre are putting a huge strain on motorists, leading a growing number of families to speed off after filling up their tanks.

One retailer said it was no longer young men in stolen cars filling up before taking off, but mums with kids in the car. He said some offenders were making a choice between paying for groceries or paying for petrol.