HEARTLESS crooks have damaged two “lifeline” minibuses which transport residents to hospital and doctors’ appointments.

Harwich’s hospital hopper and a dial-a-ride minibus were targeted over the weekend.

The raiders stole the vehicles’ diesel filters while the buses were parked at the Park Pavilion, in Barrack Lane.

To steal the filters the thieves cut through the buses’ fuse wires between Friday night and Monday morning.

The cost of replacing the parts is about £5,000.

Harwich and District Fellowship for the Sick and Harwich Connexions teamed up last year to run and fund the 15-seat hopper. It takes residents from the Harwich

area directly to Colchester Hospital and St Helena Hospice.

Thousands of Harwich residents use the service each year.

Debbie Hill, of Harwich Connexions, said the bus is a lifeline for residents.

She said: “What really annoys me is that we are a form of community transport and we take passengers to the hospital for appointments.

“People might need to go to the hospital for cancer treatment.

“Our other service is the dial-a-ride service to take people to doctors’ appointments."

Harwich Connexions launched the dial-a-ride transport service in November 2014 and now has six buses based at the Park Pavilion.

Debbie said: “We parked our buses on Friday night but when the driver went out on Monday the engine light came on.

“We called a breakdown company and while we were waiting we had a call from the dial-a-ride dropper as his vehicle went into limp mode.

“He went to the garage and they said his diesel particulate filter had been stolen.”

Anyone with information should call Essex Police on 101.