Disabled students left without transport after thieves strike twice to steal specally adapted buses

CALLOUS thieves who stole a specially adapted mini-bus from a school for disabled students have returned to snatch their second vehicle.
Distinctive: One of Newman School's stolen busesDistinctive: One of Newman School's stolen buses
Distinctive: One of Newman School's stolen buses

That means Newman School, which has sites in Dinnington and Whiston, now has no transport for its pupils who use wheelchairs – leaving a question-mark over whether some will be able to attend a residential trip next month, or travel from one campus to the other for vital treatments like hydrotherapy.

The first of the school’s two Citroen buses, specially adapted 19 seater vehicles built from large vans, was taken just before Christmas and was never traced, despite being painted in the school’s livery.

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After that, staff followed police advice and upgraded security for the second, but offenders struck again on Monday, breaking through locked gates to steal it.

Police had flagged on the automatic number plate recognition system, meaning it would alert officers automatically if it passed a camera, but deputy head teacher Emma Love said there had been no sighting of it.

Each vehicle was made with a rear tail-lift and space to clamp wheelchairs inside, allowing pupils to travel in safety and comfort.

But the vehicles are so specialised, it is impossible for the school to simply hire in replacements.

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Emma said the insurance claim on the first bus had not been settled before the second was stolen.

"It is really frustrating. It was hard work running on one bus. Now we have not got any it is a concern as to how we will operate, especially for vital things like hydrotherapy, which helps to keep some of our students mobile,” she said.

It is unclear why criminals would want such specialised vehicles, and, she added, it was unnerving that the offenders appeared to have been watching the site to choose a time to strike when access was at its best for them. Although the school gates were locked, some external gates for the Dinnington site had been left open for use by others, she said.

The school has around 180 students in the five to 19 age range, across both sites.

"A lot of our students are in a routine, they may go swimming on certain days, or whatever the activity is. This will cause a lot of upset,” she said.