A group of charity cyclists have experienced a nightmare end to a fortnight-long 1,400 mile ride from London to Rome.
While the 11 cyclists, most of them from Cornwall, were posing for photographs in front of the Coliseum yesterday afternoon, thieves ransacked their support van, taking 24 bags, seven laptops, go pros, watches, Ipads, cameras, food and other personal possessions.
Emma Fairclough, from Newquay, was the support driver for the riders, all from the Truro-based Jambo recruitment company, and says she is “devastated” by the experience.
“We’d reached our destination after 14 days hard riding and were looking to celebrate,” she said.
“The police think we were followed to the car park and then they broke in as soon as we left.
“After we’d walked to the Coliseum and taken some pictures we went back to the van a little while later to find that the doors had been crowbarred open.
“They took virtually everything including some dog food for the Labrador which came with us on the trip but I think they must have been disturbed as they did leave one bag and the sat nav.
“Fortunately we’d already dropped off the passports at our hotel but it was awful losing sentimental, personal things - I lost a one-off necklace I am very fond of and all our photos and videos of the trip as well as photos of a recent wedding were stolen.”
Emma said the police had out little hope that any of the possessions will be recovered.
“The police here wouldn't even come out to look at the van and take any fingerprints. They said we won't recover the stuff.”
Still in the cycling gear which they’d been wearing for much of the trip, the cyclists used a credit card to each purchase a change of clothing from H&M and they did manage muted celebrations to mark their achievement last night. Emma hoped that relatives would be wiring over money to pay for other items like toiletries today.
The cyclists, who included Jon Lister and David Standing from Truro, Tim Jones (Falmouth), Toby Owen (Heligan), Simon Press (Padstow) and Adam Herman and Rob Tillett from Newquay, are due to be flying home today, having raised more than £8,000 for the Jambo Trust charity which aims to develop education facilities and community independence in Tanzania.
Emma will be driving back with cycling director Rob Tillett on Monday with the bikes on board but says she is not even sure they will have enough money to pay for their petrol home.
“It’s been a miserable way to end what was a very tough trip,” she said. “The Italy section turned out to be a disaster – France was much better.
“One of our cyclists was hit by a hit and run driver in the north of the country – fortunately he only had cuts and bruises – and even at the Coliseum I had a bag taken which contained a bottle of water and some Euros.”