12:15 Friday 5th April 2002
By Nino Williams
Lambeth: Multiple Sclerosis sufferers in Lambeth face spending the summer stuck at home after their specially-adapted minibus was destroyed by vandals.
The vehicle, belonging to the Lambeth branch of the MS Society, was targeted three times over the weekend of March 9 and 10 and was left with a burnt-out interior and ripped-off doors. The bus, which is used to take wheelchair-bound MS sufferers on social activities and summertime day trips to the coast, was also found covered in drug-taking paraphernalia.
Thomas Crabb, Transport Officer for the Lambeth MS, said: "It is shocking that people could do something like this.
"Many MS sufferers rely on what we do because we provide a service like social services and it's really essential. Now we won't be able to take them away this year and many will be stuck at home as a result."
The bus was bought second hand three years ago as it was able to take up to eight passengers in wheelchairs - almost four times the amount of people as their previous bus, making it available to a greater number of people and saving repeat journeys.
The Society pays £400 a year to leave the bus in the grounds of St Martin's Church in Norwood High Street, and it was while it was parked there that it drew the attention of vandals.
Despite signs along the side of the bus stating who it belonged too, and CCTV surveillance in the car park, the van was broken into over three nights by people looking for somewhere to take drugs.
Ray Norman, ex-chairman of Lambeth MS Society, ran a number of marathons to help raise funds to buy the bus three years ago.
He said: "I sat down and cried my eyes out when I discovered what had happened.
"These people just don't deserve what has happened, and I can't believe that anyone could be so heartless.
"I don't know what the MS Society members will do now throughout the summer, but as yet it doesn't look good. A new bus like this probably costs around £35,000 and we just don't have that sort of money."
Insurers have declared the bus a write-off and are expected to collect it from the church in the next few days.
Anyone who is able to help the Society with transport or with funds
is asked to contact Secretary Peggy Coughlan on 020 8673 8974.
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