thieves made their way along a road stealing bags of charity clothing which were kindly donated to boost funds for a life-saving service.
Today air ambulance branded the crooks as the “scourge” of the charity who are costing the service £240,000 a year – cash that could be spent on life-saving rescues.
Stephen Lochrie and his neighbours in Chaucer Avenue, in the Rift House area of Hartlepool, regularly fill up and leave bags of used clothes for the Great North Air Ambulance on their doorsteps.
But the 59-year-old foster carer said that on Tuesday, August 5, the bags were all stolen before the charity’s collectors had arrived.
The thefts were described by Stephen as “the lowest of the low”.
Stephen told the Mail: “Whoever did this has got the whole street’s bags except for one house.
“I put my bag out at about 9am and at about 1.05pm when the man from the air ambulance came to collect the bags as they do, he said he’d only got one.
“One of my neighbours said she saw a navy blue Corsa or Fiesta-type car driving down the street with a boot full of bags.
“They’ll probably be taking them to a car boot sale or something, or weighing them in at one of them cash for clothes shops.
“It’s scandalous. You shouldn’t steal from anyone, but to do it from a charity is the lowest of the low.”
The dad and grandad added: “Next door had two full bags out, someone over the road had two bags out, I had a bag out, and there was more further down as well.
“They’ve got away with a load of clothes that could have made money for the air ambulance. It’s appalling.”
Air ambulance chiefs slammed the thieves across the North-East, Cumbria and North Yorkshire who they believe could be costing the charity £20,000 each month - up to £240,000 a year.
A spokesman for the Great North Air Ambulance said: “This type of crime has become something of a scourge.
“Sadly, there are people out there who put their own profit ahead of the wider benefit to the community.
“It’s difficult to gauge, but we think it could be costing us up to £5,000 a week, which is money that could be spent on life-saving air rescues.
“We don’t want people to be put off from giving their used clothing as it makes such a significant contribution to the charity.
“We would just like people to remain vigilant and report any suspicious behaviour to the police.”
A spokeswoman for Cleveland Police urged anyone with information about the crime to get in touch.
She said: “The theft of the charity bags was reported to us on Wednesday at around 2pm.
“Police are investigating and would like to hear from anyone who saw anything suspicious to contact officers on the non-emergency number 101.”
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