Sick Kids fundraiser’s wheelchair wrecked by thugs

Tom Gilzean's wheelchair was vandalised while he recovered from illness. Picture: Jane Barlow
Tom Gilzean's wheelchair was vandalised while he recovered from illness. Picture: Jane Barlow
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A FRAIL army veteran honoured by the Queen for collecting tens of thousands of pounds for charity has been rendered housebound after his motorised wheelchair was “torn to pieces” by yobs as he lay bedridden with illness.

Tom Gilzean, 93, a former Royal Engineer, today told how the vehicle was wrecked while parked in a stairwell outside his home as he was recovering from acute bronchitis.

It is thought the damage – estimated at £1000 – will not be covered by insurance.

Now a big-hearted drive to collect cash and repair the chair is set to turn the tables on the famous fundraiser.

The inspiring widower, who received a British Empire Medal in the New Year’s 
honours List, said he was “left angry and upset” by the mindless vandalism he believes was an attempted theft that went awry.

He said: “I have worked my hands to the bone for Edinburgh and this is what these people do to me. I had been in bed for a fortnight recovering from a heavy cold and chronic bronchitis when it happened.

“They ripped the back end of the chair so that it is almost falling off and stole my two walking sticks that I need to get around because the nerves in my legs are gone.”

The pensioner said the £3000 electric wheelchair had been badly damaged but was repairable.

He said: “I’m very angry and upset. This is the second time someone has tried to take my chair from the stairwell. The first time was last year.”

The tin rattling hero, who struggles to make ends meet on income support, fears he will have to pay for the repairs himself.

In March, Mr Gilzean was praised for amassing a staggering £80,000 for the Sick Kids Friends Foundation in little more than five years, collecting most days on the Royal Mile.

Cllr Cammy Day, community safety leader, immediately vowed to probe the shock attack on the well-loved figure.

He is investigating funding channels to help pay for the damage and expects Edinburgh residents will also want to contribute to a wheelchair fund.

He said: “It’s shocking and despicable what’s happened to a man in his 90s who is collecting for charity and can’t even rest in his own home without thugs damaging his wheelchair. I will ask the local community safety teams and police to find the people who did this.”

A Police Scotland spokesman confirmed officers are investigating the sickening attack.

“Officers will investigate the incident and appeal for anyone with information to come forward,” a spokesman said.

RECOGNISED FOR FIGHTING SPIRIT

TOM’S herculean fundraising efforts over the past five years have not gone unnoticed by Her Majesty – nor at City Chambers.

The 93-year-old has been a grateful recipient of the Queen’s British Empire Medal for services to charity while he became ensnared by council red tape in 2010 for his tin-shaking.

The miltary veteran, who joined the army in 1938 as a sapper with the Royal Engineers, faced a ban on his daily charity collections on the Royal Mile due to council rules. But a U-turn on the policy – thanks in part to the Evening News – meant he continue and the pensioner has now collected more than £80,000 for good causes.