Related coverage: Car fire in California Gully
AN elderly California Gully couple are distraught after thieves stole and burnt their car.
Jennifer and Edwin Hicks are in their late 70s and both are unwell. Mrs Hicks has a terminal illness and Mr Hicks is in remission from cancer. They both suffer diabetes and other health issues.
Mr Hicks parked his unlocked 1987 Nissan Navara utility outside the couple's Dove Court home on Tuesday. About 30 minutes later he went out to lock it and noticed it was gone.
A short time later the vehicle was found burnt-out in bushland near Westwood Drive, California Gully.
"It was right at the front door, virtually," Mr Hicks said.
"I was shocked, I went down the drive looking for it.
"I’m lost without it. A utility to me is so versatile.
"I can carry passengers and do the bits of work that I do."
Mr Hicks used the ute to drive himself and his wife to regular medical appointments. He also used it to carry materials for voluntary carpentry work.
The Hickses have been members of the Salvation Army for the past 30 years.
"You work for years helping people and you don't expect something like this to happen," Mrs Hicks said.
"We've done a lot of volunteer work but you do it because you want to. We've never knocked anybody back."
Mrs Hicks said the couple would struggle to get to medical appointments without the vehicle.
"Your whole life can be wrecked just in that short time," she said.
"If they wanted a loan of it, why didn't they say?
"We borrowed money to pay it off and we still owe about $6000. We won't get insurance because it wasn't locked."
A satellite navigation device, mobile phone and camera were taken from the ute, which friends have offered to replace. Tools and other personal items were damaged in the fire.
If anyone can help the Hickses obtain a ute, they are contactable on 5446 9142.
Bendigo performer Lorraine Taylor is organising a fundraising event at Eaglehawk's Railway Station Hotel on August 2 featuring her rock’n’roll band Frenz to help the couple.
Police are still investigating the theft and urge anyone with information to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.