A CATERING van owner has spoken of his shock after thieves ransacked his van – forcing him to stay shut for a week and emptying a charity box.

The Mix Grill, in Durham, was locked up for the festive break when it was broken into and cash which had been donated to St Cuthbert’s Hospice was stolen.

Owner Mick Thomson said so much damage was caused at about midnight on December 27 that he had to close the business for an extra week – only reopening this Monday.

Hospice leaders said they were saddened by the incident but taken aback by the public’s help to recoup the funds since the charity box was stolen.

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Mr Thomson said: “I got a call from one of the bin people from Veolia. He got my number from Facebook, rang and said ‘Mick have you been to the van?’. I went over and it was shocking.

“CCTV footage showed four of them, I’d say young lads, trying to get the top stable door off then eventually getting in and ransacking the place. They knocked everything over, forced their way into the till for a few 10m and 20p coins and found the charity box I’d hidden and emptied it.

“It'll take a while to recover, I’ve been here a year and a half and have loyal customers but while I’ve been closed some will have started going elsewhere.

“All I’m trying to do is earn a living and feed the masses. It has hit the business and I feel less trusting, even having my fingerprints taken to be ruled out by forensics was weird and took days for the ink to wash off.

“The charity box being stolen was an extra hit.”

Kay Carrick, development manager at St Cuthbert’s Hospice, said: “We were incredibly saddened to hear about this incident – sad for Mick’s small business, sad for the loss to our charity, and also sad that people can be driven to do such things in the first place due to the challenging circumstances in their lives.

“It’s with thanks to many generous people in our community that these charity boxes can raise around £50 to £100 when full – money which is vital to us continuing to care for the many families who need us when experiencing the toughest of times.

“We’ve been really taken back by the kind donations people have made towards helping us recoup these funds. We wish Mix Grill all the best for 2022.”

Anyone with information should call Durham police on 101 quoting incident 28122021-0097.

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