Robber attacks students in wheelchairs

TWO students in wheelchairs were robbed as they made a film to highlight the vulnerability of disabled people, The Evening Star can reveal today.Lisa-Marie Graffham and Jodie Ewen had their belongings stolen by a man armed with a screwdriver in broad daylight as they rehearsed a dance routine at an Ipswich basketball court.

TWO students in wheelchairs were robbed as they made a film to highlight the vulnerability of disabled people, The Evening Star can reveal today.

Lisa-Marie Graffham and Jodie Ewen had their belongings stolen by a man armed with a screwdriver in broad daylight as they rehearsed a dance routine at an Ipswich basketball court.

Miss Graffham, 22, and Miss Ewen, 21, were using the wheelchairs as part of a Suffolk College Performing Arts project and were rehearsing at Chantry's outdoor basketball court when the incident took place.

One of the aims of their project was to expose people's attitudes towards disabled people and look at how they are treated in society.

Miss Ewen of Redwing Close, Ipswich, said: "We were doing a move where I was facing the front and I moved around and saw a boy come round the corner with a balaclava on.

"He grabbed everything he could see - even our cheese scones.

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"Our natural instinct was to get up and run after him. He had walked away because he didn't think we would be able to get him."

The thief made off with a video camera, which had been switched off, and a bag containing £150 of Miss Ewen's wages.

As the women got up and chased him, he dropped the camera.

Miss Ewen added: "I can't believe people are sad enough to do that - prey on two people they think are disabled.

"They can't even pick on someone that can run after them and fight back.

"I would like them to realise they are quite fortunate people and to prey on people that are not as able as they are, they want to get their heads seen to really."

The dance performance formed part of a college project focusing on issues of identity.

The aim of the work is to provide schools with a tool to see how easily disabled children can be incorporated in dance and PE lessons and to question how people with disabilities are treated.

Miss Graffham, of Clacton-on-Sea, said: "It is what our performance is about, how different people are treated and how vulnerable people are. It proved the whole point of our module."

Pat Hoy, chairwoman of Ipswich Sports Club for the Disabled, said: "I am not aware of many incidents like this but sometimes our members will say they have felt vulnerable.

"This highlights some of the problems with regard to how our members feel."

The incident happened on Thursday at shortly before 1.30pm at the basketball court in Hawthorn Drive, Ipswich.

The women believe the offender, and an accomplice, had been watching them prior to the attack.

The men were wearing black trousers with a red stripe on them and one had a white bandana on.

Anne-Marie Breach, spokeswoman for Suffolk police, said: "Any incident like this is deplorable and it must have been very distressing for those involved.

"We would ask anyone who may be able to help solve this crime to contact us."

Anyone with information about the incident should contact Ipswich police on 01473 613500 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

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