A DISTRAUGHT tradesman had his van stolen after more than 20 years.

Arthur Woodward is appealing for help to trace is Mazda E2200 van which he has owned and used for work since 1997.

The 78-year-old claims he had been loading materials into the van one afternoon, locked it up and gone inside, only to come out and find it had been removed without a trace.

No smashed glass had been left on his driveway, indicating the crooks manage to get into it without causing major damage.

Mr Woodward said the police are looking for the van but has appealed to the public to bring his treasured vehicle home.

Mr Woodward said: “I bought the van from new in 1997 and have always looked after it carefully.

“I have been renovating a house in Westcliff recently and have been using it to move materials, tools, ladders and other equipment about.

“I use it regularly around the town and, in the past, my wife and I have used it for camping trips, as there is plenty of room inside.

“For the last six or seven years, my wife and I have been involved in Southend Relay for Life and it has been used each year to transport lots of heavy and bulky equipment like tables, chairs, food, and other equipment needed for the relay weekend in July.

“Our team has raised several thousand pounds over the years for Cancer Research.

“In the past, I’ve also used it to take scouts’ equipment to and from their campsites for them.

“We are both very upset that it has been stolen.

“Mazda do not make this model van any longer, so there are not many around now.”

Mr Woodward’s van was stolen from near his home in Bournemouth Park Road, Southend, on January 14 between 3.30pm and 5.30pm.

Essex Police are investigating the incident.

Anyone with information should call 101 quoting crime reference number 42/7341/20.

People can also call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111 or visit crimestoppers-uk.org.