THIEVES have been accused of putting lives at risk by stealing vital machinery from a charity ambulance.

They targeted the St John Ambulance Brigade and made off with a defibrillator, which is used to treat heart attack victims by giving them electric shocks.

The £2,000 device was stolen from the St John Ambulance compound at Gordleton Industrial Park in Hannah Way, Lymington.

PC Lesley Russell said: "The people responsible for stealing this vital piece of life-saving equipment should realise how dangerous their actions put be.

"They have taken a valuable item away from the St John Ambulance charity, affecting their ability to help members of the public who may be in need of urgent first aid."

Jo Powell, leader of the New Forest South Group of the brigade, also condemned the theft.

She said: "As a charity we work hard to raise enough money to buy this type of lifesaving equipment and it is very disappointing that someone has just taken it away without a thought for those whose lives it may save."

The defibrillator is a Heartstart FR2 model, which comes in a bright yellow plastic carrying box.

Anyone with information about the theft should call PC Russell at Lyndhurst police station on 101 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.