A playhouse has been stolen from a Deeside playgroup just 48 hours after it was donated.
Aboyne Playgroup were given the cheerful blue house from a nearby family, and were looking forward to seeing youngsters enjoy the space.
The group has recently moved to Aboyne Scout Hall, and is preparing to reopen next week.
But that excitement has been overshadowed by the theft, which happened overnight.
Centre chairwoman Caroline Linklater said her “heart sank” when she noticed the small hut missing from its base when she arrived today.
“We’re absolutely devastated”, she said.
“At first I thought kids had just maybe come in and just battered it and it was maybe all lying there in bits, but then I saw the house had actually been totally ripped off the base and taken away, and our gate was left lying wide open.”
Staff working hard towards reopening new base next week
The small wooden structure, donated by a nearby family whose children had outgrown it, was last seen at 8.30pm on Monday.
Police have confirmed they are investigating.
The playgroup has recently relocated from Deeside Community Centre and the team have been hard at work sprucing up the outdoor space of the scout hut for the youngsters before reopening on Monday.
Mrs Linklater added: “We’ve been doing up the outside area for the kids. We were just getting things in place for reopening next Monday. Luckily, we had taken away our picnic table and pirate ship home to clean up, so I’m glad that wasn’t taken away. And our mud kitchen is still there thankfully. But my heart just sank when I saw that the playhouse had been taken, I’m lost for words really.”
The 39-year-old believes it was taken by a passer-by who seized on the opportunity.
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She added: “Whoever took it has also taken a tin of paint that was inside the house. So we’re thinking they’ve taken it in desperation to give to their own children, or they’re maybe going to sell it on. The message I would give to whoever took it is we know times are hard just now with the whole Covid situation but all we want is to have this back for the children. That’s all we’re asking really.”
Well-wishers have been quick to offer support on social media, offering to help with collection and delivery if another playhouse is donated.
Mrs Linklater added: “Everybody so far has been so kind in offering to help. Some are even saying they will put money towards it. We’re really grateful.”
A police spokesman said: “Officers in Aboyne received a report of the theft of play equipment from a premises on Ballater Road which happened sometime between 8.30pm on Monday, May 10 and 7am on Tuesday, May 11.
“Inquiries are ongoing.”