Preston's newly-opened Yooof Zone forced to temporarily close after thieves take goods worth £2,500

Preston's newly-opened Yooof Zone, aimed at keeping children off the streets, has been forced to shut its doors after thieves struck.

Thursday, 28th March 2019, 2:42 pm
Updated Thursday, 28th March 2019, 3:58 pm
Former gang member Stephen Mellor launching a youth centre, YOOOF Zone, in Lune Street, Preston, with businessman, Barry Hastewell, left
Former gang member Stephen Mellor launching a youth centre, YOOOF Zone, in Lune Street, Preston, with businessman, Barry Hastewell, left

Businessman Barry Hastewell, who opened the unit in Lune Street, alongside convicted killer Stephen Mellor, said he was "absolutely gutted" to have been targeted - less than a week after opening.

He said: "We only opened last Friday, and we really pushed to get everything right.

"I'm absolutely gutted this has happened. It's not just about the things I've bought for there, we've had a couple of items donated too.

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Former gang member Stephen Mellor launching a youth centre, YOOOF Zone, in Lune Street, Preston, with businessman, Barry Hastewell, left

"Whoever has done this knows we're a charity. I feel bad for all the staff, they're trying so hard to do everything right."

Barry said items taken include a Playstation 4, X Boxes, mixer decks, a £400 cash float, and money from three arcade machines.

Barry said whoever is responsible broke in through a rear door between 10pm last night (Wednesday) and late morning today (Thursday).

He added: "I'm going to try and reopen by tomorrow. I'm going to get some games consoles together and get the games room open at least."

The Yooof Zone is a £300,000 project led by Stephen Mellor, who has turned his life around since leaving prison, and is working to steer young people away from the path he chose as a teenager.

At 18, gang member Stephen was involved in the killing of John Dookie outside the Variety pub in 1997. The 41-year-old says he has changed his ways and now wants to help youngsters in the city at risk of becoming involved in gang activity.

He was given a life sentence with a 14-year tariff after Mr Dookie was stabbed in a bitter turf war between Preston drug dealers.

Stephen has been cleared by the CRB to work with youngsters and had financial backing from Mr Hastewell to buy and renovate the building.

Earlier this month, Mr Mellor appeared on TV show This Morning as he told the nation about his ambitious plans for the centre.

Lancashire Constabulary have been contacted for comment.