Members of a Sunderland Scout group have been left devastated after mindless yobs damaged their £33,000 minibus.
Leaders at Castletown Scouts were horrified to find that the vehicle, which is used to take youngsters on trips and activities, had had bits of bricks thrown at its windows earlier this week.
The minibus was parked at the group’s base in Swallow Dene, in Castle View, which is protected by an eight foot-high fence.
Police have confirmed that they are aware of the vandalism and are appealing for any witnesses to come forward.
Events have had to be cancelled because of the attack, with leaders now counting the cost as they await an assessment from their insurance company.
Alan Palmer, who is group Scout leader, told the Echo: “We parked the bus up on Monday after we had come back from being at a camp site in Hexham over the bank holiday weekend, so it must have happened between then and Wednesday when we discovered the damage.
“It’s very disappointing because we have spent a lot of time raising funds and getting grants to buy that bus which we did two years ago.
“It’s really upsetting for us and the children.
“I can only assume it’s a bit of devilment.
“With the kids being off for half-term maybe they’ve walked past and thought it might be fun to throw bricks at the minibus.”
Bricks were hurled at the minibus’s windscreen, bonnet and several panels, meaning there will be a hefty repair bill.
“We are waiting for the insurance company to come with their assessor so then we’ll know how much it will be,” said Mr Palmer, who has been involved in the Scouting movement for 35 years.
“We paid £33,000 for it, which is a lot of money and it’s a shame for the children that they’ve been affected by it.
“There were plans to take the Cubs group swimming this week, but that had to be cancelled due to what’s happened to the minibus.
“We can’t put any child’s welfare at risk.”
Mr Palmer added that the incident is a blow to attracting more people to get involved in Scouting.
“Scouting has grown recently but in Sunderland it hasn’t been the same because we haven’t got as many leaders.
“This is one of the things that puts people off.”
A spokesman for Northumbria Police said: “At around 5.30pm on Wednesday police received a report that a minibus belonging to a local scout group had been damaged at some point between 10am on Monday and 5.30pm on Wednesday.
“The vehicle had been parked in Castle View in Sunderland but when the owner returned to collect it he discovered the paint work had been damaged and the windscreen had been chipped.
“Inquiries into the incident are ongoing and anyone with information about the damaged is asked to contact police on 101 quoting log 856 31/05/17.”
Those wanting to help the group with donations or help can contact them at www.castletownscouts.com.