The group leader of Fakenham Lancaster Air Scouts has spoken of their anger at the “mindless thugs” who broke into their workshop and stole tools and equipment valued at more than £1,000 – and vandalised a caravan used for the group’s less able members on camps.

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The break-in happened on Friday night at the three-acre site at the back of Fakenham Racecourse, at Pudding Norton.

The thieves used a crowbar to force their way into a workshop and made off with a new generator, which had been given by the town council and was going to be vital for outside events and repairs, and welding gear used to teach engineering skills.

The intruders also broke into a gun cabinet and stole an air rifle that was used to teach Scouts how to use firearms safely in their indoor range.

Group Scoutmaster Guy Harris said it was a slap in the face for a group that had worked so hard to establish a base of which to be proud in Fakenham.

“We have spent three years clearing the site, most of it done by the kids and parents, brushing back weeds and getting rid of rubbish, and we still have about another two years work to get it where we want it,” he said.

“We can’t afford to throw a lot of money at it but we have put in time and effort.”

Unfortunately, the equipment was also uninsured as they had to pay so much for public liability insurance that they could not afford buildings and contents without hiking up the subscriptions, said Mr Harris.

“We have about 60 members and we try to keep the cost as low as possible. If we took out buildings and contents insurance, that would put the price up from £60 a year to about £90 or £100.

“We don’t want to exclude anyone who might not be able to afford that, and our priority is insuring the children and leaders for the activities we want to do. Extra security would also cost us about £2,000,” he added.

“The most upsetting thing is the vandalism of the caravan. We use it for the children who might have problems camping, and they smashed their way in through a window and went right through it. There was nothing in there so it was not worth the effort but to us it means that children who might not be able to sleep under canvas could miss out on camps. We also use it as a sick room or for first aid. It was an old caravan anyway and was donated to us but it was clean and comfortable but it is probably not worth spending money on to get it repaired.”

Mr Harris said the police are investigating and believe from footprints at the site that between two and four people were involved in the theft

“There were other things they could have taken but ignored which we thought was bizarre, but it seemed they cherry-picked what they wanted,” he added. “The parents I have spoken to are furious and children are upset and feel that the site has been dirtied by this break-in. I realise it could have been a lot worse but it also reminds me why we are doing what we do here. There are children who could easily go down the wrong road in life but coming to scouts means they are not hanging around the streets on a Friday evening looking for trouble. Many of the children go on to be leaders and are giving back to the community, then a few mindless thugs come along and think “I’ll have that”. It is very sad and I think it makes it worse that it happened at Christmas time when it is supposed to be a season of goodwill.

“We hope someone will slip up and we will find out who has done this.”

Mr Harris said they appealed to anyone with information or who may be offered any of the equipment to contact him on 01328 855353 or the police on 101.

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