John Fitzgerald’s disability modified ute was stolen from his Brightview home and found in Karalee.
John Fitzgerald’s disability modified ute was stolen from his Brightview home and found in Karalee.

Ute theft robs John of choices

JOHN Fitzpatrick's ute was more than just a set of wheels – it was his independence.

Left partially paralysed by a work accident 10 years ago, the 67-year-old former truckie relied on the modified vehicle to get him to the shops and to see his family interstate.

In a despicable act, thieves stole the white, 2000 model Commodore from Mr Fitzpatrick's home at Brightview – while he slept – one day before Christmas.

Judging by the wreck, the thieves went for a long joyride before dumping and burning the car in the bushland near Ipswich, where police found it later in the morning of December 24.

In the back was Mr Fitzpatrick's walking frame – but that wasn't all of the collateral damage.

He'd also left his wallet in the glove box, and Christmas presents in the front passenger seat.

“It's not a very nice thing to do; that car was my independence, it's all I've got while I'm living out here,” he said.

“I went everywhere with it; Townsville, Sydney, Adelaide and down to my daughter's wedding in Bendigo.”

Known affectionately as “Doc” by locals, Mr Fitzpatrick worked as a truckie from 1959 until his accident 10 years ago, in which he was crushed under tonnes of steel.

“I was in rehabilitation for 13 months – with a halo bolted to my head and they had to feed me and turn me over every night,” he said.

It has taken time and a lot of physiotherapy just for Mr Fitzpatrick to get to the limited level of mobility he has now.

While he can drive a car, he requires a modified accelerator pedal.

The theft has appalled those who have come to love and respect Doc over the years – especially former truckie workmate Gordon Paul and his wife Kay, who are fundraising to buy a new ute for their friend.

“He has a heart as big as Texas and would help anyone – but he is also proud and independent and doesn't ask for help from others,” Mr Paul said.



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