MASKED thieves have broken into the compound of a popular charity store and stolen key parts from one of its vehicles which is used to collect vital donations.

CCTV equipment protecting St T’s, the charity superstore of St Teresa’s Hospice in Darlington, caught the callous raiders on film.

They forced open the window of a Mercedes van, before releasing the bonnet and dismantling the whole front end, complete with headlights, bumper and grille, putting it off the road.

The vehicle is essential for collecting new stock from kind-hearted donors which fill the retail space of the superstore, on Darlington’s McMullen Road, and the hospice’s other stores across South Durham and North Yorkshire.

Money raised by the network of stores is absolutely essential to the work of St Teresa’s Hospice, which provides crucial services around the clock to patients and their families.

Head of retail Marjorie McIntyre said: “It beggars belief that there are villains within our community prepared to prey on a charity which works tirelessly to help people at their most vulnerable time.

“We have increased security at the compound once again and would ask anyone who notices anything suspicious around our site to contact the police immediately.

“We will not be cowed by this sort of behaviour because we experience the very best of human nature on a daily basis with some wonderfully generous donations and through the work of our amazing volunteers and staff.”