The Great North Air Ambulance at the scene of a Lake District rescue. Photo: GNAAS

The Great North Air Ambulance at the scene of a Lake District rescue. Photo: GNAAS

Thieves have hit a charity whose helicopters regularly rescue stricken outdoor enthusiasts.

Burglars broke into the headquarters of the Great North Air Ambulance Service and stole cash and valuables from the premises.

Among items taken were prizes donated for the air ambulance’s upcoming charity ball. Extensive damage was caused to the office in Grange Road, Darlington during the raid, which took place between 5.45pm and 9pm on the evening of Thursday, 10 March.

The burglars forced their way through a fire door and carried a search of the property. They found and then made off with diamond rings which had been donated to the charity by members of the public, and a significant number of store cards donated by local supermarkets and other organisations.

Also stolen were car keys, charity cash collections and personal items belonging to members of staff. Durham Constabulary is appealing for information to track down the criminals.

Mandy Drake, head of fundraising at GNAAS, said: “We are all shaken by this. We just don’t understand why someone would steal from a charity, where every penny makes a difference.

“Among the items stolen were prizes to support our fundraising efforts at our ball on 4 June in Newcastle. The money raised at this event goes toward the ongoing work of our aircraft and crew. If anyone is able to help plug this gap by donating more prizes, we would be forever grateful.

“Measures have been taken to prevent further such incidents, and we would like to reassure our supporters that their donations are safe in our hands.”

If anyone has any information about the break-in they are asked to ring police on 101 and ask for Detective Constable Neil Stannard of Darlington CID.

The Great North Air Ambulance Service operates rescue helicopters from two bases, in County Durham and Cumbria. Its crews regularly go to the aid of injured walkers, climbers, cyclists and mountain bikers throughout the North of England, including the man who fell 650ft from Swirral Edge on Helvellyn on Saturday.

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