Mother's plea to thieves over little girl's wheelchair-adapted car
The mother of a profoundly disabled young girl told yesterday of her devastation when she realised thieves had stolen the family's wheelchair-adapted car.
Vittoria Rotondi's 15-year-old daughter suffers from a neurological condition that leaves her totally reliant on her mum.
She requires round-the-clock care, is unable to move or communicate by herself and is fed through a tube. In order to attend physiotherapy, hospital appointments and school, Vittoria relied on her specially modified Citroen Berlingo.
However, in the early hours of Monday the vehicle was stolen. Thieves entered her Gransha Park home taking both sets of keys. Vittoria told the Belfast Telegraph: "I woke up thinking it was my daughter's oxygen alarm.
"But then I saw all the lights on and the front door open and the car gone. I felt devastated that the car was taken."
Originally from Italy, Vittoria has lived in Northern Ireland for the past 20 years.
A former cook, she has cared for her daughter full-time for the past five years. She described the car as a vital lifeline for the child.
She explained: "Everything - the whole day - revolves around my daughter. I have the whole day completely planned out.
"She can't do anything for herself. I know I may only have 20 minutes to do something like the shopping, so the car is vital.
"Yes, I can get an adapted taxi, although it is not always available and there is the inconvenience of waiting."
Late on Sunday, prior to the burglary, Vittoria was surprised by a man in her garden.
He claimed to be at the wrong address, but Vittoria believes he was part of the gang that took the car. She described him as being a local man in his 40s and of a large build. He was under 6ft tall and was wearing a woollen top.
Vittoria believes the car was stolen to order. "This wasn't kids caring about nothing," she added. "There were other things in the house, like my handbag and laptop, that they did not take but would have walked past.
"And they would have known the car was for a disabled child.
"They would have walked past all her equipment, her pink buggy plus all her stuff in the car.
"I just fear that they will be praying on the vulnerable twice by selling on the car to someone else who has a disabled child."
Vittoria's insurance company has provided a courtesy car for the short-term. Although not tailored specifically for their needs, Vittoria said the vehicle will do, but it could take months before a proper replacement can be delivered.
Vittoria is appealing for information or for those responsible to return the car. It is a blue-coloured Citroen Berlingo with the registration number EXZ 6924.