A CHIMNEY sweep was forced to cancel a fundraising day in memory of his dead daughter after thieves stole his van.

David Ansell was left angry and upset when he left his home in Abinger Road, Portslade, and discovered the vehicle had vanished with all his equipment inside.

The 50-year-old had been due to take on a challenge on Monday by cleaning as many chimneys as he could manage in one day in return for a donation to charity.

Mr Ansell’s daughter Beth was 18 when she died from a form of bone cancer in 2012.

She was diagnosed in 2010 and went through countless treatments of chemotherapy and radiotherapy and had to learn how to walk again after having a hip replacement operation.

Despite her illness, Beth, who was a student at Portslade Aldridge Community Academy, continued to think of others and became an ambassador for the Teenage Cancer Trust,

Mr Answell holds a regular fundraiser as a thank you to the organisations that helped his family.

These include Chestnut Tree House children’s hospice near Arundel, the Children with Cancer Fund in Polegate and the Tuesday O’Hara Fund in Eastbourne.

Mr Answell said: “It is a pity the charities have lost out.

“The day takes a lot of organising and I will be trying to rearrange it but it is not easy.

“I’ve also had to spend thousands of pounds to replace my equipment as this is my busiest time of the year.”

Mr Ansell has reported the theft to police but is not confident of getting his van back.

He said: “From looking on the internet it looks as though gangs steal the vans, strip them for parts and sell them on to unsuspecting customers.

“There was no broken glass and it had a crook lock fitted so I’m sure it was a professional gang.”

The owner of the Lumpy Lodge rabbit and guinea pig sanctuary in Portslade has let Mr Ansell borrow a van so he can get to his customers.

Mr Ansell said: “I want to warn other van owners to be aware of what has happened.

“I’d advise them to double check their own security and be aware as I wouldn’t want this to happen to anyone else.”

Mr Ansell’s van is a white Ford Transit and the registration number begins with AY63.

The theft happened some time between 4pm on Sunday and the early hours of Monday.

Anyone with information is asked to call police on 101.