Joyrider 'has basically cut off my legs'

Wheelchair-bound Carole Wiffen, whose car was stolen and badly damaged by a joyrider while she was in Dunedin Hospital for major surgery this month, is comforted by chihuahua Anna. Photo by Stephen Jaquiery.
Wheelchair-bound Carole Wiffen, whose car was stolen and badly damaged by a joyrider while she was in Dunedin Hospital for major surgery this month, is comforted by chihuahua Anna. Photo by Stephen Jaquiery.
Carole Wiffen lost more than her car to a joyrider last week.

''He has basically cut off my legs,'' the wheelchair-bound 68-year-old said.

The theft of her Toyota Spacio - obtained via Lottery Grants Board funding to help her stay active in the community - has left her out of pocket, and angry at the man who allegedly took her mobility away from her.

Unable to drive for six weeks, she now had to make arrangements for someone to pick up the damaged vehicle - which reportedly has had all its windows smashed - from an Omarama garage.

''I don't have any money ... this isn't fair'', Miss Wiffen said following her release from hospital yesterday.

Last Friday, the Otago Daily Times reported how a Dunedin man faced five criminal charges, and the likelihood of more, after police alleged he was involved in a 48-hour, 1200km joyride involving two cars, which began on Monday.

The man allegedly used Miss Wiffen's vehicle in a petrol-theft drive-off in South Dunedin before travelling 300km to Queenstown, where he was involved in another petrol-theft drive-off, police said after the incident.

He then left the car in Omarama when it broke down, and allegedly returned to the town after hitchhiking to Oamaru to get a rental car.

Police said the man then drove to Dunedin and was involved in another petrol-theft drive-off before returning to Omarama, where he allegedly damaged the Toyota Spacio and the rental car.

Miss Wiffen said the man was a supposed good Samaritan who, after being recommended by a mutual friend, dropped her off at Dunedin Hospital last Monday.

''I didn't know him. He was a real gentleman; he put my bags in the car and he was very nice.''

She said the man asked if he could use her car to pick up his brother from the nearby dental school before returning the vehicle to her Dunedin home.

''I thought I don't really want to do this ... but I told him that would be OK.''

Days later, after recovering from knee-replacement surgery, including a stint in the high-dependency unit, she was contacted by police about her beloved vehicle.

''I just couldn't believe it.''

Her wheelchair's foot supports are also in her vehicle, further restricting her movement.

''I would just like to ask him: 'What does it feel like to take away a person's independence?','' she said.

A 22-year-old unemployed man is expected to appear in the Dunedin District Court next month.

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