THE “selfish and cruel” theft of a tractor and specialist trailer used by a charity has sparked an outpouring of support from the community.

The theft of the John Deere tractor and trailer belonging to East Dorset Heritage Trust, which is used to take nursing home residents, youngsters with disabilities and others with mobility problems around Moors Valley Country Park, was reported to police last Thursday.

The trailer was found but was badly damaged. The tractor has not been recovered.

East Dorset Heritage Trust manager Sarah Evans said: “We are truly devastated. This project which is funded by donations and run by volunteers, makes such a difference to the lives of those who use it.”

Since the theft the trust has been overwhelmed by the response from the community with offers of help.

“I just really extend our gratitude to everyone for the support that we have received. There’s been an amazing response out of such a selfish and cruel act. It’s restored our faith in humanity,” said Sarah, who hopes to get the scheme back up and running as soon as possible.

Dorset Council has stepped in to offer the use of a tractor. The council’s community and open spaces manager Matthew Reeks said: “We were very disappointed to hear of this criminal act. One of the joys of Moors Valley Country Park is the ability to get close to nature and for people with limited mobility, the scheme East Dorset Heritage Trust provides is very much valued.

“We have pledged to provide the Trust with one of our tractors to allow the rides around the Park to continue.”

Mr Reeks added: “We very much hope the stolen tractor is recovered, but until then, we’ll do all we can to help.”

Police are investigating the incident. A Dorset Police spokesman said: “At around 11.55am on Thursday June 20 Dorset Police received a report that a green John Deere tractor and trailer had been stolen from Moors Valley Country Park.

“Enquiries are ongoing to establish when the tractor was taken and investigate the theft. No arrests have been made.”

Anyone with information is asked to call 101, quoting crime reference number 55190093222.