A THIEF stole a van that was used for charity work and to help a town’s most vulnerable residents then wrote it off in a police chase, injuring two officers.

Hayden Bowers stole the white Ford Transit owned by Community Support Initiative which continues the work of the late charity champion Honest John Hilton, in Newton Aycliffe.

CSI not only keep alive the legacy of Mr Hilton, who raised more than £230,000 for local causes before his death in February this year, but also provide assistance such as garden and decorating to vulnerable people in the town.

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But now the group has had to launch a fundraising campaign to get up and running as quickly as possible after Bowers’ crashed the van into police, who chased and subsequently caught him.

The van, which had garden and decorating tools inside, had been taken from outside an address in Kemble Green East, Newton Aycliffe, in the early hours of Friday, May 22.

At about 1am on Sunday, May 24, two officers from Durham Constabulary’s Road Policing Unit became suspicious of a van travelling at speed in the Staindrop area.

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When they attempted to stop the Transit, it took off at speed and was driven dangerously away from the officers.

Bowers twice tried to reverse into the pursuing police vehicle and the second attempt hit it, causing considerable damage to both the van and police vehicle along with minor injuries to both officers, and got out of the van and ran away from the scene.

Despite being hurt, the officers managed to catch and arrest the driver.

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The van, which was displaying false number plates, was identified as CSI’s was complete write off and all items had been removed from inside.

Massive damage was also caused to the police vehicle.

Hayden Bowers, from Bishop Auckland, was later charged with a number of offences including aggravated vehicle taking, dangerous driving, assault on the two officers and failing to provide a breath specimen for analysis.

The 24-year-old appeared in court and pleaded guilty to a total of eight offences and the case was adjourned to be sentenced at crown court at a later date.

The Northern Echo: SERVE: Sergeant Andy Boyd outside Newton Aycliffe Police Station Picture: DURHAM POLICE

Newton Aycliffe Neighbourhood Sergeant Andy Boyd said: “The impact that this crime has had on the victim is massive, but also has a knock-on affect for the community.

“CSI Aycliffe are now prevented from carrying out the amazing work they do in carrying on with Honest John’s legacy.

“We have reached out already to local businesses for help in getting these guys up and running again, but if there is anyone out there that can help, please get in touch.

“ I’d also like to commend the officers involved for their tenacity in capturing this male who was intent on evading capture with no regard for public safety.

“Despite being injured they managed to arrest this male, preventing him from going on and committing further offences and endangering the public. It’s why we joined the police!”

A fundraising page set up for CSI aims to raise £1,800 and can be found online at gofundme.com/f/stolen-van-and-charity-equipment