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Disabled woman left stranded after wheelchair is stolen in Exeter while blind friend stood beside it

By mike_byrne  |  Posted: February 22, 2013

Carolyn Richards and Kate Harrington

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THIEVES made off with a disabled woman’s electric wheelchair as her blind friend stood beside it.

The callous crime left the two women distraught and stranded in Eastern Fields, Whipton, until police were able to come and rescue them.

The women suspect the theft may have been a copy cat crime following a similar incident played out in a recent episode of the soap Emmerdale.

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, virtual prisoners in their own homes.

The pair had made their way to Easter Fields to exercise their dogs and were coming towards the end of their walk, near the Harrington Lane entrance, when Carolyn’s dog, Buck, broke free of his lead.

Carolyn, who has very 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 .

Said Kate: “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 couple, who live in Thorverton, said they were devastated by the theft .

Said Kate: “It could have been a prank or it could have been a copy cat of the theft of a wheelchair that was on Emmerdale recently”

Added Carolyn: “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 .

“I am just hoping that somebody knows what has happened and realises what a blow it is and can see themselves returning the wheelchair.”

Police are investigating the theft and anyone who can help should call them on 101

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