THREE women recovering from breast cancer were targeted by thieves who broke into their car and stole their handbags while they were going for a walk in the New Forest.
One of the victims was Lucy Jackson who said she was later told by police that two gangs of thieves are operating in the area, disguised as walkers and keeping an eye out for people leaving their valuables behind.
Lucy (48) was with two close friends she met during her treatment for cancer at the Royal Bournemouth Hospital.
She said: “We just enjoy getting together and thought it would be nice to go for a walk in the Forest. It’s very important for us to get fresh air and exercise. I’m trying to build my stamina up for another round of radiotherapy.
“We did have a lovely walk then came back to find the rear windscreen of the car smashed in and our bags gone. It was just horrible.
“A police car was passing so we flagged it down and reported what had happened. One of the officers told us that break-ins there were a daily occurrence and that two gangs are targeting that car park and others in the Forest.”
Lucy, who works for the A&T as the newspaper sales and distribution manager, added: “They watch to see if you leave anything behind then steal it while you are gone. That’s what I found really unnerving about the whole thing, that someone was watching us and we had no idea.”
The BMW car that was targeted belonged to friend Char Parrack (37) who was diagnosed with breast cancer when her son was just a year old. She has since undergone a full mastectomy and chemotherapy.
Char, who lives in Bournemouth, had left her vehicle in a Forestry Commission car park near the Royal Oak pub in Fritham, near Bramshaw.
Char lost all her credit and bank cards, £20 in cash, her driving licence and her house keys. Lucy lost a designer handbag, a purse and a pair of glasses worth £300.
Char said: “We were really looking forward to the walk. After my surgery I find it uncomfortable to carry a handbag on my shoulder so together with Lucy I left my bag in the boot, covered up.
“There were no warning signs about thieves otherwise I would never have done it.
“We took our mobiles and car keys with us. From what the police and staff at the pub told us later it was likely that the thieves were in the car park already. That fact and that we were completely oblivious to being watched has really frightened me.
“When we came back I saw the window was smashed and at first I thought maybe a New Forest pony had fallen on it, or something.
“Then we saw our bags were gone. It was such a shock. The car park was really busy and there were lots of people around but no one had seen, or heard anything.”
Char’s angry husband Lee, an e-commerce manager, posted a message on Facebook to the thieves telling them: “To the person(s) who broke into my wife’s car today in Fritham, New Forest – I just want you to know that the bags and items you stole were from a group of ladies recovering from breast cancer and having a walk in the forest.”
The three women were all diagnosed with having triple negative breast cancer. Char, who works as an area manager for a chocolate company, was given the bad news in November last year.
She is now in remission after treatment, while Lucy’s is still ongoing.
Char said: “We are all very positive, fighting ladies. When this happened I just tried to think ‘stupid little thieves’ and not let it get to me, but it does. I was terrified that they would drive to my home and use the keys to get in. Even now I’m worried they may turn up although we’ve changed all the locks.
“Something like this really sets you back.”
Lucy said when she and her friends went to the Royal Oak pub they were told by staff that break-ins at the car park were “daily” occurrences but the Forestry Commission had refused to put up warning signs because it did not want to “deter” tourists.
Lucy said: “I think that is really wrong if it’s true. People should know there are thieves targeting these areas. We were told by the police that there is one gang from Southampton and another from Salisbury.”
Both Char and Lucy say they will not return to the Fritham car park. Char said: “It’s completely put me off. I think other people should be aware this is going on as well. There should definitely be warning signs. I don’t think that would put people off, it would just make them aware.”
The A&T asked the Forestry Commission and police for a comment but no one was available.