Bodmin Scout group stranded after thieves dismantle engine and steal pistons

A group of scouts were left stranded after thieves stole parts from their minibus' engine. Young people at Third Bodmin Scout Group won't be able to go on camps, day trips or take part in community events after their 17-seater Ford Transit was targeted by skilled thieves.

David Thompson, the group chairman, said the theft took place outside the scouts' group headquarters in Barn Lane on Wednesday, May 29. He said: "We had a meeting until 8pm so it must have happened after that, once we'd left. We were alerted that the bonnet of our van was open by people attending Slimming World next door.

"The thieves drilled out the bonnet lock, unbolted the engine head and removed pistons from within. They must have had a full tool kit with them and the expertise to do that. It sounds like they were stealing to order for someone with a Transit van. To go through all that trouble for pistons, it might have been easier to just order the parts online. But now we're left without a van and that's very frustrating for all the young people here."

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It is the second time in a year that the Scouts' group has had its minibus damaged. In May last year, it had its windows smashed and the group upgraded the van but now it has been targeted again.

David said that while there are 80 Scout groups in Cornwall, Third Bodmin is the only one with its own minibus. "We worked hard to fundraise and maintain it," he said. "If we claim on the insurance no doubt our premium will go up so we'll have to see but it could mean we have to use about £2,000 of our funds to do the repairs.

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"It's very frustrating as it penalises the young people. We were due to take the minibus to the Royal Cornwall Show this week. We had been due to go out on Monday and on Wednesday night too. That's two out-and-about activities we have had to cancel. It's the young people who are affected by this. I think it was targeted but it's also quite a mean thing to do."

David reckons that for such a skilled theft to take place, whoever carried it out must have 'worked' on the minivan for 45 minutes if not more.

"We have 140 members from Squirrels, all the way through to Scout and Explorers. We've used our minibus to take them to the New Forest, the Forest of Dean and Dartmoor on expeditions and camps.

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"We've used it to help other Scout groups for Coast to Coast and for community events. We support so many young people. It is our pride and joy. But then we get a kick in the teeth like that. It has really put us back."

The incident has been reported to Devon and Cornwall Police. A spokesperson for the police said: "We have received a report of vehicle crime in Bodmin where a minibus has been damaged and parts removed. The incident is reported to have taken place on Barn Lane. Anyone with information is asked to contact police on 101 quoting log 50240131115."