Heartbreak over theft of community artwork

Shocking theft: Justin (centre) with people who worked on the piece.
Shocking theft: Justin (centre) with people who worked on the piece.
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A piece of unique artwork worth thousands has been stolen from the social enterprise where it was created.

Justin Cottam, who runs Envriomiracle Ltd in Clayton’s Gate, Preston, said he is “heartbroken” at the theft of the table, which occurred overnight between Thursday and Friday last week.

The piece was created from driftwood hauled from the banks of the River Ribble, and was given a Danish polish finish and toughened glass top by dozens of people who are homeless, out of work or on long-term sick.

Justin, 26, said: “It’s an enormous table - about 10ft long and it weighs a ton.

“It would have taken four or five people to move it and a large van. I’m not sure if people know what they have stolen or whether it was opportunistic, as they’ve taken around £7,000 of tools as well, not including 18th century wood working tools I don’t know the value of.

“When I arrived at the scene the doors to premises were damaged and there were marks to suggest that it had been dragged out into the street before it was driven away. The thieves had also torn down signs of the Proud Preston lamb which is the company’s logo, and signs displayed about helping the community and inspiration had been defaced and vandalised to the point I had to remove them.”

Tree surgeon Justin set up the enterprise last year thanks to £25,000 from the Government start-up fund Rockstar Youth.

Since then, he has worked with over one hundred disadvantaged people, teaching them new skills and encouraging them back into work.

He added: “The idea is that we would displayed the work in Preston, to show what can be achieved, but now the frontier piece has gone and I’m heartbroken about it.

“The tools are one thing, but the table has really bothered me, because I know everyone will be extremely upset.”

Justin has reported the theft to the police, who have told him they are checking CCTV.

A police spokesman confirmed that the piece remains missing and nobody has been apprehended for the crime.

Justin said he refused offers of £3,000 for the table before it was complete, and was regularly visited by artists in his workshop. He claims that it is worth around £10,000 in its current state.