STAFF at a community centre are devastated after almost £6,000 worth of laptop computers were swiped as they attended their colleague’s funeral.
The thieves broke into the Bridge Centre in Priory Road, taking 17 sliver Toshiba Satellite Pro laptops, each worth £350. Police said the break-in happened between 4.40pm last Wednesday (December 4) and 8.40am on Friday (December 6).
The laptops, worth almost £6,000 in total, were used by many community groups for IT courses and other activities.
It is the second time thieves have struck the charity. Gardening equipment, worth around £700, was stolen from the shed a few weeks ago.
Cllr Jay Kramer, chairman of the Bridge Centre Trustees, said: “We are absolutely devastated. It was particularly upsetting as the centre was closed so that staff and volunteers were able to pay their respects at the funeral of our manager, who sadly passed away. The loss of the laptops is felt by all as they are an integral part of the service that we offer at the Bridge Centre. These are used by students from the local academies to enhance their education and members of the community to hone their skills and access help with benefits. We feel violated by this crime.”
She added the laptops were securely stored in a steel cabinet, which was worth £2,500.
Cllr Kramer said: “It was forced open and is all damaged now. Police said it was a very professional job, as the burglars removed a whole window before managing to cover the sensor in the room. The building was alarmed.
“We are insured and police are currently trying to retrieve the laptops, as they have the serial numbers.”
The centre’s manager Julie Sutton died aged 53 on November 23 after suffering from cancer. She had been manager since 2007. Her funeral was held last Thursday (December 5) and the centre was closed as a mark of respect.
Cllr Kramer said: “Julie made a massive contribution to children and families and the Bridge Centre is a legacy to her. Police see the centre as an important facility so this theft makes the situation all the more disgusting.”
Pauline Hyland, vice-chairman of the Bridge Centre Trustees, said: “We are very angry as the centre is a non-profit organisation and we have to find our own funding. It’s the community that has suffered. A few weeks ago all of the gardening equipment went missing. It was taken from the shed and worth around £700. It costs more than £100,000 to run the centre each year because it’s a well-used facility.”
Sergeant Dave Townsend said: “We are keen to hear from anyone who might be able to provide information about when the burglary took place or saw anything suspicious during that time. We would also like to speak to anyone who may have been offered the chance to buy one of the silver laptops or who saw people hanging around the centre between Wednesday afternoon and Friday morning.”
Anyone with information should call 101 quoting serial 435 of December 6.