CRUEL thieves who stole hundreds of pounds worth of tools from an ill man have left his son “heartbroken”.

Paulo Duarte, a student at Oxford Brookes University, bemoaned the “heavy emotional impact” of the loss on parents Paulo Snr and Rita.

In the middle of the night on Wednesday, January 31, thieves drilled a hole in the rear of the van outside the family home in Woodford Green and stole numerous electrical and hand tools.

Thieves swiped around £700 pounds’ worth of hammers, blades and cutting equipment.

Paulo and Rita woke up ready to go to the doctor when Paulo Snr noticed the door was wide open and damaged. 

Paulo, whose parents have both been sick in bed, has been left devastated by the crime.

The 26-year-old said: “I was heartbroken. It made me feel they were vulnerable because they are approaching old age. It made me question whether they are safe in Redbridge.”

Rita and Paulo have lived in Woodford Green for 12 years. Paulo has run his handyman business for more than a decade.

Paulo, who studies law, slammed the crooks for victimising two ill people trying to make an honest living.

The law student said: “To me, the people who did this took advantage of hard-working people like my parents.

"My parents have a difficult life earning money and living in today’s expensive world, then someone comes along and takes advantage.

“It’s more than just an actual loss of physical value – it’s an emotional pain that discourages work. It’s had a heavy emotional impact.”

Paulo is calling on a greater police presence in the area to deter thieves.

He said: “What I would like to see happen is the council taking action and listening to the people. This is a real problem. I’d like to see measures like CCTV or increased patrols so police would have more of a presence.”

Now, the law student has started a petition calling for improved safety measures. The petition has already gained 2,865 signatures.

Paulo says: “I want to make people aware – not being able to do anything about it is just not right. We are citizens who have a right to speak out. 

“I want to get the word out there with the petition. With enough signatures I can get across to the people in charge of these issues.”

A spokeswoman for The Met says that the investigation has been closed because all avenues of investigation have been exhausted.

A spokeswoman for Redbridge Council says: "Redbridge Council are doing everything possible to try and protect local residents, the Council does not control the police or sentencing of criminals, but we have been continually trying to work with the police to increase their presence on the streets of Redbridge.

"However, to combat the epidemic of crime, Leader of the Council Jas Athwal has today announced significant investment of £1.5m for crime and safety technology.

"This £1.5m investment will increase Automatic Number Plate Recognition cameras on the boroughs major arterial routes to identify, track and detain criminals."

Click here to view the petition.