Power wheelchairs stolen along with van

A sports group had their specialist wheelchairs worth several thousands stolen at the weekend.

The powerchair football team from the Percy Hedley Sports Academy were celebrating winning the league on a trip to Nottingham last weekend when thieves stole their van with the equipment inside.

The Killingworth-based Northern Thunder team had just played their last game of the season, which saw them lift the WFA National Premier League by winning an impressive 22 games out of 22.

But it was while staying at The Village Hotel in the city that the theft occurred from the hotel car park.

The van contained four sports powerchairs specially adapted, both for the sport and also the needs of the severely physically disabled people who play powerchair football.

All of the equipment required to support the team and the disabled participants was also in the van, along with specialist items for tasks such as transferring people from one chair to another.

Adam Parry, sports development manager at the Percy Hedley Foundation, said: “We estimate the financial cost of this is somewhere in the region of £60-70,000.

The financial cost is hard enough to swallow, however, the social cost and the impact of this crime is worse.

“Some of the chairs lost have been constantly tweaked over six years to make them perfect for the players, and that whole process will need to start again.

“The van is used daily to provide sporting opportunities for disabled people all over the north east of England and we now can’t support those sessions.

“The team also have another competition in three week’s time and I haven’t even begun to get my head around what this means for that.

“The Sports Academy staff are now without transport and it is having a huge impact on outreach work.

“If anyone has a spare van that we could use to transport equipment it would be a massive help to us.”

To help the Sports Academy, contact Adam on (0191) 268 7116.

*A 37-year-old man from the Beeston area in Nottingham was arrested and released on bail in connection with the theft.