A CELEBRATED swimmer is devastated after callous thieves reportedly stole her prosthetic leg ‘Pogo’ from a riverbank on Monday.

Kate Sunley will have to wait at least six weeks to have a new leg created after her made to measure limb was taken while she was in the River Tees.

The Stockton woman was enjoying the river at Preston Park, Eaglescliffe with a group of open water swimmers when friends noticed that her leg was missing from the jetty where she had left it.

Along with other items, it is said to have been taken from a collection of towels, shoes and other possessions that were left attached to railings by the swimmers.

Ms Sunley, who is recognised by the International Ice Swimming Association as the world’s first disabled female ‘ice miler’, said the suspected theft will have a huge impact upon her life.

Although she has another prosthetic, she relies upon the waterproof and lighter weight appendage to easily access swimming spots and to shower in.

Appealing for its return, she said she believed youngsters who regularly gather in the area may have been responsible for the leg’s disappearance.

The 51-year-old, who lost her leg in 1993 following knee problems, added: “This has come as a huge shock and it will come as a cost to the NHS.

“They are going to replace it but it will take six weeks to go through the process and I’ll have to go to a lot of appointments.

“This leg is my first choice to pick up rather than go on crutches and I’m going to be without it for the foreseeable future, it’s going to be a bit of a bind.”

She said: “When I realised it was missing, there was absolute panic – I looked alright from the outside but was in a right state.

“I’m going to have to live life in a completely different way for the next six weeks and won’t be able to reach a lot of the places I usually swim in.

“Swimming is a really important part of my life – when I’m in the water I’m not someone with one leg, I’m just like everybody else.

“I just hope it was kids messing around because I hate to think that somebody did this maliciously.”

The suspected theft, which happened at around 5.30pm on Monday evening, has been shared hundreds of times across social media in a show of support for the swimmer, with members of the public expressing distress and outrage over the incident.

Ms Sunley thanked the public, her friends and contacts within the swimming community for their support as she urged anyone who knows the whereabouts of her leg to speak to the police.

Anyone with information should contact Cleveland Police on non-emergency number 101 quoting event number 85860. Alternatively, call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.