The cruel theft of bikes from a Sunderland autism charity will be highlighted on TV today.
BBC’s Crimewatch Roadshow has staged a reconstruction of the crime, which saw the North East Autism Society lose more than £3,000 of specialist bikes in an overnight raid on its storage container.
The show, which airs at 9am on BBC2, will include a short segment in which Ian Patterson, Programme Manager from the North East Autism Society (NEAS), relives the moment he discovered all the bikes he uses for a therapeutic cycling club had been taken.
Presented by Rav Wilding and Michelle Ackerley, the show, watched by more than one million viewers, will issue an appeal for members of the public to come forward with information.
NEAS Chief Executive John Phillipson said: “We’re really grateful to the BBC for recognising how significant a loss these bikes are to us. To take cycles and go-karts from already vulnerable people is heartless; but on this occasion it was also calculated.
“We believe they knew what they were doing and who they were stealing from.”
Please, if you know who has the bikes, get in touch. We would desperately like to have them back.Ian Patterson
The bikes, which include six mountain bikes, four go-kart style bikes, and a distinctive side-by-side bike, were stored in a secure lock-up at Silksworth Ski Centre, where the Society held a therapeutic cycling session every day for adults, children or young people with autism.
Ian discovered the break-in on Friday, March 18: “Just three weeks before the break-in we bought three brand new bikes and we added them to our lock-up at the Silksworth Ski Centre. We used the bike track there every weekday afternoon. Sometimes it’s used by adults with autism, as part of their therapy, sometimes they’re used by children and adults from our residential homes,” he said.
“In 12 years we’ve never had any issues. Local people know we use the track to help people with additional needs. While autism can be hidden, the effects aren’t. Whoever took these bikes and karts must have watched us, and if you watched us you would see key workers supporting people.
“You would see how happy this makes adults and young people who often struggle in the community. You’d be aware that you were stealing from people who really look forward to being on those bikes.
“Please, if you know who has the bikes, get in touch. We would desperately like to have them back. The go karts and the side-by- side bike isn’t something you would see every day so we’re sure people will have seen them around.
“Any help would be gratefully received.”
The BBC crew interviewed Eva Gordon, from Silksworth, whose son Ross, 30, lives in a NEAS adult residential home. She said: “I couldn’t believe it when I heard about this theft. It’s a really despicable thing to do.
“If you understood autism you would know how significant a loss this is. Children and adults with autism really benefit from being outside, in the community, living a normal, full life.
“The bikes let them burn off excess energy, they let them have fun. To take them, and to stop this club because of it… well, it’s awful. I hope this helps get them back and they find whoever did this.”
Anyone with information about the theft or to the whereabouts of the stolen bikes and go karts should call police on 101, giving the reference number: 550 180316.”