Raiders deal a ‘sickening’ blow

From left: Jane Roberts, Jenny Long, Mark Swift, Bernie Parry, Paul Hughes, Steven Bailey, Michael Hodson and David Roberts
From left: Jane Roberts, Jenny Long, Mark Swift, Bernie Parry, Paul Hughes, Steven Bailey, Michael Hodson and David Roberts

A COMMUNITY group working with Wiganers with mental health conditions has been left devastated after callous thieves stole all its gardening equipment.

Burglars used a grinder to remove two padlocks to take thousands of pounds of tools, including lawnmowers, strimmers and leaf blowers, from a store used by Green Crew.

The award-winning group’s headquarters at St Peter’s Pavilion in Hindley were targeted by offenders some time between 5pm on Thursday and 8.30am on Friday, when director Mark Swift arrived on site to discover the crime.

Mark says the theft has had an enormous impact on Green Crew’s service users, who have learning difficulties or conditions such as autism, and left the organisation completely unable to carry out its work gardening for elderly residents, community groups and churches and carrying out conservation work.

Mark, 42, said: “We’ve set this up with the best of intentions and this is just a hammer blow to us, it’s sickening.

“There’s thousands of pounds of stuff gone, they’ve basically taken everything. It’s had a massive impact and it’s really upsetting, some people have gone very quiet and others are visibly shaken.

“It also means all the jobs we were supposed to do today are now on hold. We were meant to be gardening for an elderly lady who looks forward to our visits and who we help to keep her garden looking nice and tidy.

“Most of all I’m bothered about the effect on the guys who use the service, because we will have to manage that over the coming weeks.”

Mark and two other directors set up Green Crew around a year ago and last year its team of 20 service users put in around 9,000 hours of community work across the borough.

The organisation was given a Greenheart Award for its conservation work, which includes links with wildlife trusts, local nature reserves and the Canal and Rivers Trust.

Volunteers also maintain land including the play area at St Peter’s Pavilion as well as gardens for people struggling to pay commerical rates.

Mark said: “The whole idea is to enable people with disabilities to see themselves differently, and for the community to recognise that too. We wanted to create something a bit special and that has been widely recognised.”

Greater Manchester Police said it had received reports of a theft at the Hurst Street site and officers would be visiting Green Crew.