Christmas heartbreak for disabled couple as lifeline van is stolen in Romford

A DISABLED couple fear they will be left housebound for months after heartless thieves stole their expensive bespoke van and wheelchair from a Romford street.

Eric and Susan Murdoch have appealed for the return of the silver Renault Traffic people-carrier and the electric wheelchair, which had been inside the vehicle, after they were taken from outside a home in Knighton Road, between 4.30pm and 8pm on Saturday (December 4).

Eric - who has osteoarthritis in his knees and walks with a stick, and his wheelchair-bound wife who has a litany of serious health problems - now fear they could wait six months for replacements.

“It could take anything up to four to six months for the insurance investigation and then to adapt a van and the wheelchair,” said Eric, who gave up his full-time job as an HGV driver to become full-time carer to his wife in 2003.

“That van was our savior. We haven’t had much luck recently with our combined health troubles – we’re both so upset.”

Eric urged the thieves to search their consciences and give up the items.

“If anyone has seen either the van or the wheelchair please contact police,” he added.

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The �22,000 van, which they rent from specalist charity Motability for �184 a month, had been specially modified for the pair, with a wheelchair ramp for Susan and hand-controlled break levers to allow Eric, 58, to drive.

The couple, from Bethnal Green, east London, had been visiting Eric’s sister in Romford when, it is believed, a member of the family dropped the keys which were later found by an opportunistic crook.

Former receptionist Susan, 57, said: “That van meant everything to me. I was able to go places and see things that I hadn’t been able to for years. It gave me a degree of independence again. I’m absolutely gutted about this. If we don’t get it back we’ll be stuck indoors for Christmas.”

DI Chris Krelle, from Havering Police, said: “It is especially distressing to hear that a specially adapted vehicle such as this has been taken. We are very aware of the difficulties losing a vehicle can have to those who need it for mobility purposes and we have circulated the vehicle as stolen.”

Anyone with information about the van, which has blacked-out windows and registration number YJ58 GWE, or the wheelchair, should contact Romford Police Station on: 0300 123 1212.

DI Krelle added: “To date we have not received any further information relating to the vehicles current location. The Metropolitan Police Havering in partnership with the London Borough of Havering are currently running a number of campaigns relating to vehicle security including the Lock, Lift and Check campaign encouraging drivers to check that they have locked their vehicle prior to leaving it unattended.”