Theft gangs target North West Air Ambulance

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CRUEL con men are stripping a popular charity bare by stealing recycled clothes donated by the public.

The items are destined to raise vital funds for the North West Air Ambulance charity, but before they can be officially collected, well-organised gangs collect the clothing using fake flyers and even false uniforms, and then ship the goods for sale to the continent.

The North West Air Ambulance estimates £1,000 week is being lost because of the heartless thieves.

Towns across the North West are targeted with the false flyers saying donated clothing will be collected on a certain day but sadly the items aren’t reaching their intended destination.

Footage filmed on behalf of the North West Air Ambulance charity clearly shows bags of clothes being illegally collected and put into the back of unmarked transit vans. Not a penny of the sale of these clothes ever goes to the charity.

Now the charity, which needs to raise £4.2m. each year to keep its two emergency helicopters flying, is considering halting all genuine collections of recycled goods for one month in the hope of flushing out this illegal operation.

Charity Chief Executive Lynda Brislin said: “We are appalled people are taking these clothes knowing full well they have been donated to a charity.

“We are sadly thinking of taking the drastic measure of halting our collections for one month in the hope the police and trading standards officials could flush out the people who are hurting the charity financially. I am extremely saddened by this situation.”

Recycled clothing will only ever be collected in official North West Air Ambulance vans and if anyone is suspicious about the people collecting the items they should immediately contact the charity on 0800 5874570.

The charity’s plight has received the support of Pendle MP Andrew Stephenson, who said: “The North West Air Ambulance Charity does fantastic work and people give generously to support their work.

“Targeting charity collections for financial gain is not just criminal, but deeply wrong. The people who are benefitting from this must not realise that their crimes lead to lost lives.”

If people are now nervous about donating clothes but still want to help the charity, officials are asking people to make donations online, or join the North West Air Ambulance lottery.

Anyone wishing to donate to the North West Air Ambulance Charity can do so by calling 0800 587 4570, or by post to: FREEPOST NORTH WEST AIR AMBULANCE, North Mersey Business Centre, Woodward Road, Knowsley, L33 7UY. All cheques should be crossed and payable to North West Air Ambulance. Otherwise visit the charity’s website (www.nwaa.net) for more details.