RETURNED: The Hub minibus which was returned four days after being stolen
RETURNED: The Hub minibus which was returned four days after being stolen

STAFF and volunteers at a charity run community venue are “delighted” to have been reunited with their minibus four days after it was reported stolen.

The 17-seater vehicle, which is one of three community transport vehicles owned by the TCR Hub, at Barnard Castle, was stolen from a car park in Newton Aycliffe on Thursday, March 1.

However, less than a week after police told Hub chief executive Rachel Tweddle it was probably “stripped and gone forever”, it has been returned.

Ms Tweddle shared the news of the theft on social media and the details were widely circulated.

She told the Teesdale Mercury: “The minibus was out with a local driver.

“He dropped the children off in Newton Aycliffe, then parked up and went for some lunch.

“When he came back, it was gone. He did check quite a few other streets, but when he couldn’t find it he rang the Hub and the police.”

She added: “We were fortunate we had another vehicle we could send through with another driver to pick up the youngsters. The police think it was probably an organised group, who look for vehicles like this, and they have put a Europe wide search on the vehicle and the number plate.”

However as a direct result of the social media post, which was viewed by more than 87,000 people, the vehicle was found and returned to the charity within four days.

Ms Tweddle added: “We’re over the moon. It was someone who had nothing to do with this area or the Hub and I don’t think without the help of the public we would have got it back.

“A member of the public rang us to say they’d seen the minibus and they got in touch with the police.

“We’re really grateful to everyone who shared the story.”

The minibus has not only been returned to the charity, but was out at the weekend, fulfilling its role as a community vehicle.

Ms Tweddle added: “The power of the people has prevailed.”