Northern Ireland news

Thieves steal heating oil from home for disabled children

Around 1,500 litres of oil have been stolen from Whitehaven Respite Unit in Whitehead, Co Antrim

THIEVES have stolen heating oil from a home for children with disabilities in Co Antrim.

Around 1,500 litres were taken from Whitehaven Respite Unit in Whitehead over the new year.

The theft was discovered when workers opened the unit earlier this month.

Linda Guthrie, acting deputy manager of the unit, told the BBC the stolen oil was worth around £1,000.

She said an overnight stay had to be cancelled, causing distress to the five children who were due to visit.

"Because these children do have a significant disability, and quite a number of those children have autism, it takes a lot of preparation for them to come into Whitehaven," she said.

"To try and explain to those children that we have to get them home again, they don't understand this, so their way of reacting to that can be extremely distressing to watch."

Following the theft, OFTEC, which represents the domestic oil industry in the north, appealed for help from its members.

Heating oil distributor Solo Direct has since offered to give Whitehaven 1,000 litres.

David Blevings, OFTEC Ireland manager said, thieves are targeting oil tanks.

"Usually it's only when people run out of oil and their heating stops working that theft becomes apparent," he said.

"However, by taking a few simple precautions such as making a regular note of your oil levels will help to ensure that you are not the victim of oil theft."

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