Family's heartache after cruel burglar steals car and charity donations as father, 53, battles incurable cancer

A heartbroken family is appealing for the public’s help after a burglar stole their car and charity donations as their father battles incurable cancer.

Monday, 17th February 2020, 3:55 pm
Updated Monday, 17th February 2020, 5:25 pm

CCTV footage shows the moment a burglar stole the car keys and charity donations from the kitchen while Leigh Brown sat in the next room.

The callous act is only made difficult as it comes at a time the family are dealing with heartbreak - after her husband John was diagnosed with incurable cancer.

Now the 50-year-old mum, from South Hetton, has been left without a car to take her 53-year-old husband to his vital hospital appointments.

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John Brown and wife Leigh have had the family car stolen and funds from the home

And donations adding up to around £300 to cancer charity, Macmillan, were also snatched in the ‘horrendous’ burglary.

The donations were made in support of their daughter Sophie who has been running 5.3 miles everyday for 53 days to raise funds for Macmillan in honour of John’s birthday.

“I woke up at around 3.20am and let the dogs out into the garden before going to sit with a cup of tea in the living room,” said Leigh, who is mum to Christopher, 27, and Sophie, 24.

“I’ve been struggling to sleep since John’s diagnosis and I was going into work early so I could leave to take him to the hospital in the afternoon.”

The car they need to take John to hospital appointments has been taken.

Leigh said it was only when she was getting ready for work and looked out of her bedroom window that she realised her car, a four-year-old grey Citroen DS5, was gone.

CCTV shows the incident happened between 4.05am and 4.20am on Friday, February 14 morning in Hedley Terrace, South Hetton.

“We looked through the CCTV and the burglar has climbed over our neighbour’s fence and into our garden.

“What’s frightening me the most is that I was actually sitting in the living room when he took the keys.”

John, an engineer, had been feeling unwell and was going for tests before the couple flew to New York and Mexico for a surprise 50th birthday trip for Leigh.

But in October 2019, after numerous appointments when they arrived home, the family received the devastating news that John had incurable multiple myeloma – a type of cancer that forms in the plasma cells.

John has been through four rounds of chemotherapy and hours after the burglary the couple were told doctors are temporarily withdrawing treatment as John is suffering from side effects.

“It’s devastating to us,” said Leigh, a nursing home manager. “Hopefully when the side effects are gone they’ll start his treatment again. It’s just horrendous at the moment.”

Durham Constabulary has confirmed inquiries into the ‘two in one’ burglary are ongoing.

A force spokesman said: “A man entered the kitchen through an unsecured side door of the house and took the keys to the homeowner’s grey Citroen DS5 before driving it off.

“The vehicle, registration LT08 OWN, was driven to the Asda garage in Peterlee, where the suspect filled it with fuel before making off without payment.”

Anyone with information should call 101 quoting incident number 46 of February 14.