66 countries in motorhome then thieves steal it from their drive
- Credit: John and Sue Hughes
Retired teachers John and Sue Hughes remain devastated by the theft of their motorhome – which they have driven through 66 countries – from their driveway.
The motorhome is a Chausson Flash 02, registration NK08 LLE and was parked up outside their home in Henley Way, Ely.
Mr Hughes said: “It was a very distinctive motorhome as we had various maps on both the back and side of the motorhome detailing where we had travelled with her.
“It was a very well-known vehicle within the motorhome fraternity as we had given talks on motor homing round the world at the National Motor Show in Peterborough and written articles for MMM magazine.
“As a vehicle it is of limited value, being 13 years old with over 150,000 miles on the clock but obviously it means the world to us.”
Christened Nicolle because of the number plate, Mr Hughes says they bought the motorhome in June 2008 just before they retired.
"She was just what we needed,” says Mr Hughes. “Short enough so that we could park her on our drive at home.
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“And reasonable ground clearance with big wheels so that we could manage the potholed roads of eastern Europe and the dirt roads in Scandinavia.”
He said: “Since then, we have travelled extensively throughout Europe, Asia, Africa and North America.
“We spend at least six months of every year on the road.”
They have visited over 100 countries and 66 with Nicolle.
“In particular we love wilderness areas such as Northern Scandinavia and Alaska. We avoid campsites and prefer to wild camp whenever we can,” he said.
The van was stolen on Tuesday October 26 and CCTV footage shows the thieves on their drive between 2am and 2.16am.
He said it looks as if they finally managed to break in “presumably having hotwired the engine and dismantling the dead locks and security devices that were fitted”.
Mr Hughes added: “At least three men were involved with a possible fourth one in the coupe style car that had been parked a little way down the road.
“The motorhome was SORN (off-road) and we had hoped that a camera might have picked up that it was an untaxed vehicle.”
He said the theft was reported to Cambridgeshire police as soon as it was discovered- the couple were asleep – but have heard nothing since.
“As it is such a distinctive vehicle, we can only assume that it has been driven to a deserted barn or workshop to remove parts such as the catalytic convertor and stainless-steel exhaust,” he said.
He is hoping someone might have spotted it and will help with its return.
Nicolle has coped well with some fairly extreme driving conditions.
They have driven her through eastern Europe, to the northernmost points of Scandinavia, through Syria and Jordan to the Red Sea and through the Sahara to Morocco and Western Sahara.
In 2012 they shipped her to America and spent six months exploring USA, Canada and Alaska, driving Route 66, the Grand Sur up the coast of California, the Alaska Highway, the Top of the World Highway and the Dempster Highway to the Arctic Ocean.
And in 2014 they shipped her to South Africa and drove through 12 African countries across the equator to Uganda.
Mr Hughes said: “Nicolle performed exceptionally well on potholed and rutted roads and her progress on extremely rough corrugated dirt tracks was equally impressive.
“With only two-wheel drive, sand and mud are a problem (we carry sand ladders, a shovel and tow rope) but we only got stuck twice.
“On the first occasion we were towed out by a huge Toyota pickup truck, the second time Sue with a little help from reluctant campsite staff pushed us.”
The couple met whilst both teaching at a British school in West Germany.
Mr Hughes said: “When we met, Sue was a keen tent camper but I had a caravan, bought with money left when my grandparents died.
He added: “We tried a few package tours further afield but just couldn't stand being told what to do.”