CALLOUS thieves have left a Mencap centre with a £4,500 repair bill after breaking in and ransacking the building.
Bosses at the Lisa Dixon Centre in Haswell are devastated after discovering the raiders had left a trail of destruction during the raid, which happened at about 3am on Monday.
Newly-installed patio doors, which will form part of a sensory garden, were jemmied open with a crow bar, before it was used to force open other doors and drawers around the building.
The complex had to be closed for the day while the mess was cleared up and repairs carried out.
The thieves’ haul included a £25 till float and three bottles of wine which had been donated as raffle prizes – but the clean-up costs will amount to £4,500.
The centre is home to Haswell and District Mencap and was named after Lisa Dixon from the village, who was born with disabilities.
It was launched by her mum Jean, who has been given an MBE for her charity work.
Lisa’s sister, Hayley Hood, the centre’s chief executive, said: “The staff and volunteers raised the money for those doors. They walked miles and one lady had waist-length hair and had that shaved off. They worked hard.
“I will never forget their faces when they saw the glass and everything else all over the floor and the damage.
“Even the filing cabinets were forced open, and they weren’t even locked.
“We’re going to have to raise funds and be reimbursed by the insurance, but by how much we don’t know.”
Hayley added: “There has been petty crime, but to be fair since we moved in, in 2007, we’ve never had the building touched and that’s really because we’re well respected in the community.
“We feel sick about this. We’re here raising money for the benefit of people with learning disabilities. Now we’re going to have to use that money to fix the damage.”
The kitchen till was later found in a nearby field, with the notes taken and coppers left behind.
Police are carrying out inquires, including forensic checks.
The charity, based in Burt Close, helps people with learning disabilities from across East Durham, along with their families and carers. It offers day care and activities, including swimming and five-a-side alongside other groups.
Last February, thieves stole the wheels of the bus which had just been donated to the centre with the cost of the theft and damage put at £2,000.
Anyone with information is asked to contact Durham Constabulary on 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.