Car theft leaves Penticton woman housebound

Police say it's probably too late, but victim says stolen SUV was her wheelchair and is pleading for its return

More than a week after her vehicle was stolen, a Penticton woman is holding out hope it’s still roadworthy and the thief will have a change of heart.

Wendy Tapping was alerted by her roommate early on May 7 that the 1994 GMC Tracker was missing from her driveway at the White Water Mobile Home Park in the south end of the city.

The small SUV, which is dark pink in colour, served as Tapping’s “wheelchair,” she said, since multiple back ailments make it tough for her to get around.

“There’s no way I could even walk to a bus stop,” she said.

Tapping thinks the Tracker may have been stolen and sold for parts — “it took me two years just to find a door handle,” she said — although neighbours suggested it was taken by an opportunist who needed to get somewhere in a hurry.

The 50-year-old is on a disability pension and can’t afford to replace her vehicle, which did not have working door locks. To add insult to injury, she thinks the she may have left the keys in it, something she does inadvertently on occasion when her back is giving her trouble and she’s in a rush to get in the house.

Since last week, Tapping once borrowed a neighbour’s vehicle to get to a dentist appointment, but mostly stayed home with her blinds closed.

“I don’t even want to look out at the driveway. I just look out and I cry,” she said, adding she’s also been forced to cancel a trip to see her ailing father in Maple Ridge.

Penticton RCMP spokesman Sgt. Rick Dellebuur said there was a reported sighting of the Tracker on a bush road near Okanagan Falls, which leads him to believe it’s unlikely the vehicle was sold for parts.

“I think it’s more of a joyride,” he said. “That’s where we usually find them is up on these logging roads, usually smashed up, burned up, shot up.”

Dellebuur added that any unlocked vehicle — even without keys in it — is a target.

“What we’re finding is these opportunists are walking the neighbourhoods and checking for unlocked vehicles just by flipping the door handles,” he said. “If they find it unlocked, then they enter, and what they’re looking for is money and anything of value.”

Mounties investigated 88 reports of thefts from vehicles in Penticton in the first three months of 2014, according to a report sent to city council. Another 19 vehicles were stolen over that same period.

Tapping hopes her Tracker doesn’t become a statistic.

“Whoever it is, I want to say I forgive you, but I’ll forgive you when you bring my car back,” she said.

“Just put it in my driveway and I won’t say a damn thing.”