A DISABLED man was left "extremely distressed" after his electric wheelchair was stolen and then wrecked.

Paraplegic John Rowbotham returned from a church service to find his wheelchair missing from the driveway of his home, in Consett, County Durham.

A search followed, begun by his 84-year-old mother, Annie, near the house, in Princess Avenue, and taken up by Mr Rowbotham's brother, George, and sister-in-law Sheila.

They eventually found the wheelchair several streets away, with damage estimated to be in excess of £500.

It now requires repairs at a specialist shop in Spennymoor, County Durham, before Mr Rowbotham will be able to use it again.

Police last night appealed for information from anyone who may have seen the wheelchair being taken from the driveway, or being pushed around the area.

Mr Rowbotham said until the wheelchair can be repaired he will remain housebound. He said the wheelchair is left on the driveway so he can get straight into it, after getting out of his specially-adapted car.

"I can't walk at all, so it's left on the driveway, so that I can easily get to it, from the car.

"Just the day before, I came back from a wedding and it had been moved, but not far.

"Then when I came back from the Salvation Army on Sunday it just wasn't anywhere to be seen.

"It was mayhem. My mother looked around and we couldn't find it. It was my brother and sister-in-law who came up and searched the area, before they eventually found it all smashed.

"I suppose whoever did it will think it was just a bit of stupidity, but it's left me just stuck in the house and it now needs at least £500 of repairs.

"It's my lifeline and effectively I've been left immobilised just for someone's bit of fun," said Mr Rowbotham, who formerly ran a milk round and fruit and veg businesses before he was struck by multiple sclerosis, in 1998.

The wheelchair was taken between 5.30am and 7pm on Sunday.

Witnesses are asked to contact Consett police office, on 0845-606 0365.