The first quadruple amputee ever to swim the English Channel has had his wheelchair stolen in northern France.
Thieves targeted a holiday trailer belonging to French athlete Philippe Croizon, 45, who lost all four limbs in an electrical accident in 1994.
Mr Croizon said he was “sad and angry” to have lost the brand new, custom-built £20,600 all-terrain wheelchair, which was funded partly by donations from friends.
He was staying with family near the coastal town of Dieppe on Thursday night, and woke up on Friday morning to find the locked trailer, which contained the wheelchair, had been detached and stolen.
On Sunday he told reporters from the AFP news agency: “I don’t know if these people realise what they did. They not only took my wheelchair; they also stole my autonomy. Without it, I am nothing.
Mr Croizon, who took up swimming after his accident and trained with the French marine police, appealed for the thieves to return the chair.
He said: “This type of equipment is expensive and the social security doesn't reimburse much. Let them keep the trailer if they want it but at least give me back the wheelchair. Daily life is already difficult enough.”
Following his electric shock in March 1994, former steelworker Mr Croizon had both his legs amputated above the knee, his left arm removed above the elbow, and his right arm removed below the elbow.
In September 2010 he became the first quadruple amputee to swim across the English Channel, completing the crossing in less than 14 hours.
In 2012, he swam four straits separating five continents, including a crossing of the Bering Strait between Asia and North America in near-freezing temperatures.