An animal welfare worker's trip to Spain to free condemned animals has been put in jeopardy by thieves.

Kate Green returned to a woodland car park after walking her dog to discover thieves had thrown rocks through almost every window of her pet rescue car, which was bought with donations.

They had dragged the Citroen XM estate about 20m from where she had parked it in the car park off Coldean Lane, Brighton, and stole a watch, earrings and some loose change before fleeing the scene.

Grandmother Kate, from Coldean, Brighton, runs the European Animal Welfare group, which brings back animals from a Spanish animal refuge to Britain for rehoming.

She has given up everything she owns to fund dozens of trips to Spain, bringing back animals that may otherwise have been put down.

She once snatched two dogs from their Spanish owner's property and drove back to Sussex in an old Fiat as part of her campaign to rescue pets from a life of misery.

Kate makes up to four journeys a year, bringing back seven or eight dogs and cats at a time. She has sold her jewellery and possessions to pay for the trips and vets' bills.

She bought the navy blue car for almost £3,000 three weeks ago. She was due to make her next trip on May 3 but may now have to cancel. Kate parked the car at about 8.45am on Wednesday in the spot she has used to walk her dog for years.

She said: "I don't know if they were trying to steal it but it's wrecked. The people who did this are vile. It is totally malicious."

A fellow dog walker at the scene called the police on her mobile phone and reported the incident.

Kate has reported the damage to her insurance company but is unsure whether it will pay to have the car repaired.

She said: "It's not just the damage, it's the fact I have taken out insurance for the trip and made all the arrangements to bring three dogs back.

"That may all have to be changed. It's just mean."