A couple who spent their retirement savings on a caravan only to see it stolen were astounded when police said the travellers who are living in it could not be removed as it would breach their â€œhuman rightsâ€.
Bailey Louisiana. (File photo)
Kathleen McLelland and Michael Curry were told by officers that they have â€œno lawful powersâ€ to take their caravan back from a traveller couple and their two children.
The couple, from Tongham, Surrey, bought the 26ft Bailey Louisiana caravan with their retirement savings before spending Â£10,000 on upgrades. The Â£20,000 mobile home was stolen 18 months ago.
They will now have to launch civil proceedings against the traveller family if they want their caravan back, but fear they will not be able to afford legal fees.
Ms McLelland, 68, said: â€œWeâ€™re devastated â€“ it was all we had.
â€œTheyâ€™ve told us social services would have to be involved to get the family accommodation before they could seize it, otherwise they said it could breach their human rights.â€
Mr Curry, 53, believes the caravan is in Hook, Hampshire, but officers refuse to tell them its exact whereabouts.
The traveller family are thought to have told officers they bought the stolen caravan for Â£300.
Police constable Karen East said that their â€œhands have been tiedâ€ and could not seize the caravan back for the couple.
Ms East wrote: â€œUnfortunately it has transpired that we have no lawful power to recover the caravan.
â€œIt will be the responsibility of you as the owner to start civil proceedings against the current occupier.
â€œI sincerely apologise for this decision and I am sure that you feel the onus has been put back to you but my hands have been tied due to police powers.â€
At the time of the theft the couple were between insurance policies so were not covered.
Coupleâ€™s stolen caravan cannot be returned as could breach traveller familyâ€™s â€˜human rightsâ€™