Heartless thieves have ransacked an allotment site used by disabled people - stealing thousands of pounds worth of equipment.
The raiders smashed their way through gates at the Holder House Allotment Project, at Whitleas, South Shields, in an overnight raid.
Thousands of pounds worth of power tools - including a generator, lawn mowers, strimmers, saws and wood for a current project - have been stolen.
The raid also caused hundreds of pounds worth of damage to the site.
Yesterday, the allotment project was closed to those who use it while project manager Chris Convery began to sort out the mess.
Mr Convery said: “At least £10,000 worth of equipment has been stolen, if not more.
We have had to cancel our session and contact families to stop them from coming in, as if they see the state of the place they’d be upset and distressed.Chris Convery
“We had a project all lined up, which our service users have been working on, which will now have to be put back.
“We just won’t have the money to be able to complete it because we need to replace the tools that have been taken and repair the damage that has been caused.”
He added: “Everything we have on the site has been paid for by our service users through their direct payments. So the people who have done this have stolen from our most vulnerable residents.
“We have had to cancel our session and contact families to stop them from coming in. If they see the state of the place they’d be upset and distressed.
“We are going to try our best to tidy it up, but they will still be upset no doubt about that.”
Holder House Allotment Project has been running since 2008 and offers places for people – including those with learning and physical disabilities, the elderly and local schools – to go and learn about horticulture.
The aim is to boost their confidence as well as their gardening skills.
Local councillor, Coun Ernest Gibson said: “This project means so much to the people who access it. It’s just unbelievable that someone would go out their way to cause so much hurt and distress to some of the most vulnerable people in our borough.
“I’ve also been made aware of other allotment plots that have been hit also, I’ll be liaising with the police and other agencies to see what can be done to increase security on the site.”
Anyone able to help through donations of tools and materials is asked to contact Mr Convery on 07824 560 147.
Anyone with information to the break-in or has been offered any of the items for sale is asked to contact police on 101 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.