The vital lifesaving equipment cost around £1,500 and are usually paid for by charities or local fundraising groups such as Rotary clubs
Callous thieves are putting hundreds of lives at risk by stealing public defibrillators – and then flogging them on eBay.
The life-saving devices have been installed in towns and villages across Britain to provide immediate first aid to heart attack victims.
But in recent weeks several have been ripped from the side of community halls and phone boxes.
Eight have been taken in the past three weeks alone around Bristol and others have been stolen recently in Surrey, Kent and Derby.
They cost around £1,500 and are normally paid for by charities or local fundraising groups such as Rotary clubs.
It is believed the units are being stripped down and sold for spares, with many parts being advertised for sale on eBay.
Heart attack victim Keith Porter – whose life was saved by a community defibrillator – described the thefts as “disgusting”.
The 64-year-old, of Yate near Bristol, said: “These things save lives – they are easily accessible and easy to use.
“It is like taking water away – a life preserve.”
AED Locator, which runs a website showing where the defibrillators can be found, say there has been a sudden surge in thefts.
A spokesman said: “Eight have been stolen in just two to three weeks in Bristol alone.
“It appears to be the same approach where the thieves have broken into the cabinets.”
In Bristol they have been stolen from Frenchay village hall and sites in Pucklechurch, Easton and Fishponds.
Ray Care, chairman of Frenchay village hall, said: “It is disgusting that someone would come along and take life-saving equipment – and we’re not the only ones.
“We cannot see any reason why people want to take them.
“You have to emphasise the point that they are life-saving pieces of equipment. They are not going to be any good to anyone really.”
On New Year’s Day a defibrillator was stolen from Guildford ambulance station in Surrey as crews were out on an emergency call.
Local police branded the thief an “idiot” on Twitter and added: “Stupid behaviour that puts lives at risk.”
Two defibrillators were also stolen from Chipping Sodbury over the Christmas period and another was taken from Otford station in Kent.
Last July a defibrillator was stolen from a pillar in Derby where a local church had raised £2,000 to buy it.
Avon and Somerset Police confirmed it is investigating the latest thefts around Bristol.
South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust said: “Community defibrillators are essential life-saving pieces of equipment.
“The machines can be used by anyone and don’t require any special training which means that emergency care can be available to those in need in the crucial first few minutes of a life-threatening emergency.
“The Trust works really hard with communities across the south west to provide these machines and to see eight of them removed is very disappointing.
“We would urge anyone who has information about the machines to contact the police on the non-emergency 101 number.”