THIEVES who stole a life ring have been branded “selfish idiots” by a council leader.

The thieves took the safety equipment from the River Ouse near Lewes yesterday.

Lewes District Council leader Isabelle Linington was furious over the crime.

She said: “It is difficult to comprehend what would possess anyone to endanger the lives of other members of the public.

“Putting it kindly, the person or persons responsible are selfish idiots and I’m now hoping we can identify them and pursue a successful prosecution.”

“We have a number of life belts next to rivers, pools and along the coast and each one could save someone’s life.

“When you consider that nearly 600 people drowned in the UK last year, it is essential that this lifesaving equipment is in place when it is most needed.”

She said the Ouse is a fast flowing tidal river with steep and slippery banks that can lead to people getting into trouble.

The life ring was taken between Willeys Bridge and Phoenix Causeway. Anyone with information about the theft should call 01273 471600.