A THIEF caused £2,000 worth of damage to an ambulance after he broke in and stole a satellite navigation system.

The crook took the equipment from the ambulance as it was being cleaned by its crew while parked outside the accident and emergency department at the Royal Bolton Hospital on Sunday.

Police are now hunting the thief, who was apprehended by a paramedic, but managed to escape.

Delwyn Wray, area director for the North West ambulance Service, said: "Having equipment stolen from a vehicle causes a huge inconvenience to the service, as well as the financial implications.

"The screen is totally useless when removed from the vehicle and would have no value to the perpetrator, but will cost the ambulance service £2,000 to replace as well as the time lost taking the vehicle out of circulation for repairs and refitting."

The thief opened the front door of the ambulance as the crew were working in the back, and took the sat nav system from the dashboard.

One of the paramedics heard the door of the ambulance open and went to investigate. When he grabbed the thief, he put the sat nav down his pants.

When he was asked to return it by the ambulance crew he handed it back and ran away. Police have confirmed they are investigating the incident.

Mr Wray said: "The ambulance service relies on the satellite navigation system to ensure our paramedics reach calls in the quickest possible time and the nature of this sort of crime has a knock-on effect for patients in the area.

"We are here to serve the people of the North-west and our crews save lives on a daily basis.

"It is intolerable that they have to look over their shoulder in this way. The act is purely one of vandalism as there is no gain whatsoever by the perpertrators.

"These systems cannot be used once they have been removed from the vehicle and are totally useless."