Thieves ram down gates during break-in at care centre

Oaktree Farm Care manager Dave Curran, centre, pictured with some of the damage caused at an earlier break-in
Oaktree Farm Care manager Dave Curran, centre, pictured with some of the damage caused at an earlier break-in

Burglars used a van to ram into gates during a break-in at a centre that provides care for young adults with learning disabilities.

The thieves broke into Oaktree Farm Care at Copsale at around 1.25am on Wednesday - for the second time within months. There have also been two previous attempted burglaries.

As well as ramming into the gates in the latest break-in, the burglars broke doors and destroyed fencing before making off with a pallet of bricks, which police say is worth around £1,000.

Manager Dave Curran estimates that around £1,000 worth of damage was also caused during the break-in.

He said that there had been two recent attempted break-ins before the latest burglary. Last October, centre staff were left devastated when thieves caused thousands of pounds worth of damage and stole around £1,000 - money saved from disabled young people’s benefits earmarked for outings and parties.

Dave said: “It’s got to the stage now when we’re frightened to go home because we’re worried every morning what we are going to come into.

“We’ve spent thousands putting in new doors, CCTV and lights. We don’t know what else to do apart from building a wall around the whole place. It’s a real uneasy feeling.”

He said centre owners Amanda and Andrew Churcher had spent thousands on repairs after the last break-in. “Now the gates have to be straightened, fence posts put back up and new doors put on the stable block. It will be thousands of quids worth.”

The centre - on a 33-acre farm in Copsale - cares for around 40 adults aged between 18-25 and aims to help encourage and support them to remain as independent as possible within their own homes and community.

Police are now appealing for any witnesses to the latest theft. A spokesman said: “Anyone with information should contact police online https://www.sussex.police.uk/contact-us/response-to-appeal/ or ring 101 quoting serial 227 of 10/01.”