Wheelchair theft left Exeter pair stranded
A STROKE victim and her blind friend had to be rescued by police after being left stranded in an Exeter park when thieves stole an electric wheelchair.
The thieves struck in Eastern Fields, Whipton, as the two women exercised their dogs.
It has left Carolyn Richards, 55, who is paralysed down one side following a stroke and her friend and neighbour Kate Harrington, 59,who has no eyes, virtually prisoners in their homes.
The two women were coming towards the end of their walk, near the Harrington Lane entrance, when Carolyn's dog, Buck, broke free of his lead.
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Carolyn, who has limited mobility said: "We had kept to the path and when Buck broke free I managed to get out of the wheelchair and walk a little bit to get him back, while Kate stayed by the wheelchair.
"I was only a few yards away and had been gone only a few minutes when I caught Buck and turned round – and saw the wheelchair had gone.
Kate said: "I was standing just 15 feet from the wheelchair with my guide dog Muppet I didn't hear a thing.
"There were quite a few people about and we asked those coming towards us if they had seen anything but no one had seen anything at all. It was terrible.
"It is awful because Carolyn is my eyes and I can do the talking for her as she has speech problems following the stroke.
"We called the police and they were very quick. They sent three police cars and searched the area but couldn't find anything. They then gave us a lift back to the Exeter bus station so we could get back home."
The friends, who both live in Thorverton, said they were devastated by the theft.
Carolyn added: "I suppose it could have been somebody stealing it for a disabled relative but then I cannot imagine anyone who knew what the problems were taking a wheelchair from someone else."
Kate, who leases the electric Rascal wheelchair from Motorbility for £100 a month, said she had been told she would have to wait 28 days before she could have a replacement and would have to sign an undertaking not to leave it unattended.
"It is awful because without the wheelchair I am stuck," she said.
Police are investigating.