CHARITY workers were left devastated after heartless thieves stole a collection van filled with vital goods to help people with Aids and leprosy.
The yellow Leyland Daf vehicle was parked outside the home of David Ramsden, 32, of Read Street, Clayton-le-Moors.
It contained furniture and other goods which were to be sold in a Third World charity shop on High Street, Rishton, which is run by David's mum Kathleen, 70.
The cash raised from the sale would have gone to a Jesuit group in London to be sent abroad to help people with life-threatening illnesses.
But now the plan has been shattered by heartless thieves who stole the van while David was visiting his girlfriend Laura Bury's grandmother in Baxenden.
Kathleen, of Victoria Street, Clayton-le-Moors, said: "I have had some sleepless nights thinking about this van being taken, but I know you can't think too much about it or you would just get down in the dumps.
"The money that is raised from our goods really does help.
"I got a letter from a priest the other week saying the people in a Chinese village he was helping were sitting like ghosts in the night, lit by candle light. Some of them had coffins beside them, ready to die.
"If anyone has anything we could use in the shop, like furniture or toys or other goods, that would be great. They could bring them to the shop, as we can't pick them up now our van has been taken.
"We have never had anything like this happen before. But this hasn't put us off, we are going to continue with our work."
David said: "We are very unhappy about the theft. I had been visiting Laura's granny and when we got back I noticed the van was gone.
"I was shocked to see it was missing and I rang the police."
It is thought the van was stolen between 8.30pm and 8.50pm last Wednesday.