A stolen hospice van has returned to the road - but the charity is still counting the cost.

The theft of the vehicle, which is used by St Clare Hospice in Hastingwood to distribute goods to its charity shops, has cost the charity £1,600 – money which could have been spent on patients and their loved ones.

The van, which was clearly marked as belonging to the hospice, was stolen on February 25 from the hospice car park and found 12 hours later in Nazeing.

But police spent two weeks gathering forensic evidence from the vehicle and the charity was forced to hire a replacement, the cost of which was not covered by insurance.

There were further delays when the van was returned as repairs had to be carried out.

But now the van is back in use, although police are no closer to finding who was responsible for stealing it.

St Clare retail sales manager Fiona Eaton said: “Although we were able to hire a replacement vehicle while the van was being repaired, unfortunately the rental was not covered by our insurance so that alone has cost £900.

“We also had goods in the back which were rifled through and have had to be written off so that’s an additional £350 in lost stock.

“When you add on £250 to have new keys cut and a £150 excess fee, we are facing quite a hefty bill.”

“We were devastated that thieves would target the hospice and they clearly have no idea of the consequences of their actions and the bill we are now facing; all funds which could be spent on caring for our patients and their loved ones.”