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Heartless thieves steal new art supplies from severely autistic Canterbury boy

By Marijke Hall

Two young girls left a profoundly autistic teenager confused and upset after stealing his beloved art materials from his lap.

Samuel Hayward had been sitting in his mum Kelly's car outside their Canterbury home while she took in the shopping when the teenage thieves swiped his belongings.

The 19-year-old, who has severe autism and cannot speak, had only just bought the craft supplies from The Range with his Christmas money.

Kelly Hayward with her son Samuel
Kelly Hayward with her son Samuel

Mum-of-three Ms Hayward, who lives in Pine Tree Avenue, says the goods, including colourful pipe cleaners, would be worthless to the thieves, but meant the world to Samuel.

“He absolutely loves art and crafts,” she said.

“He gets stared at a lot when we go out so we tend to stay in playing with his art stuff.”

The 46-year-old says she only went inside her home for a moment while Samuel sat in the car sorting out his new purchases.

“When I came out there were two girls acting suspiciously and crouched down by his door,” she said.

“I called out to them and they ran away. When I went over to Samuel he looked bewildered and I noticed his stuff had gone.

“They had stolen all his bits and pieces. It was worthless to them but it meant a lot to him.”

Samuel who had some of his artistic crafts stolen
Samuel who had some of his artistic crafts stolen

Ms Hayward says the girls would have known they were taking advantage of a vulnerable boy.

“He was a bit confused and upset and didn’t know where his stuff had gone,” she said.

“We went back out so I could replace it but putting Samuel in the car is not as easy as it sounds. It takes a lot more effort than you think.

“It’s like having a toddler with me.”

The full-time carer, who is also mother to Louis, 23, and Alfie, 13, describes Samuel as a gentle soul and an inspiration.

“He is absolutely adorable,” she said.

“You get different scales of autism and Sam is the highest you can get. He also has profound learning difficulties.

"He was a bit confused and upset and didn’t know where his stuff had gone" - Kelly Hayward

“He can’t talk but he is very clever. He understands everything you say to him.

“He communicates with pictures and he’s doing amazingly well at school.”

Ms Hayward says his craft supplies are particularly important because taking him out in public can be difficult, with people staring and some parents even pulling their children away from him.

“He leaps about like a frisky toddler, rubs his tummy and he’s very vocal,” she said.

“Every time I take him out people stare at him, horrified. It’s heartbreaking and unacceptable but he’s oblivious and he loves being out in the community.”

Ms Hayward says Samuel, who attends Stone Bay School in Broadstairs, loves the beach and park and she is trying to raise funds to “put a smile on his beautiful face”.

She admits she would love to take him on a trip.

“He’s beach mad,” she said.

“But when we’re there or at the park he gets a lot of stares. Sometimes I wish I was rich enough to hire a whole beach for a day just for him.”

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