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 by thieves over the weekend.

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

To steal the filters, which capture and store exhaust soot, the thieves cut through the buses’ fuse wires between Friday night and Monday morning. The cost of replacing the two filters is about £5,000.

Harwich and District Fellowship for the Sick and Harwich Connexions teamed up to run and fund the 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.

The hospital hopper is funded by Harwich Fellowship For The Sick and Harwich Connexions runs the service.

Cheryl Thompson, of the Fellowship For The Sick, said: “It’s difficult to understand the mindless mentality of the people who did it.

“We are very grateful for Harwich Connexions as without it people would be let down who need to go to appointments. “

Anyone with information should call Essex Police on 101.