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Misery as ex-Highgate Society's chairman has 'lifeline' wheelchair stolen from the street

PUBLISHED: 07:00 12 September 2019

Robin Farlie at home in Highgate. Picture: Polly Hancock

Robin Farlie at home in Highgate. Picture: Polly Hancock

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The "lifeline" wheelchair of a former Highgate Society head was stolen as he popped in to his old haunt for a coffee on Saturday.

Robin Farlie at his home in Highgate. Picture: Polly HancockRobin Farlie at his home in Highgate. Picture: Polly Hancock

Robin Fairlie was visiting the Highgate Society and the next-door Highgate Literary and Scientific Institution (HLSI) on Saturday lunchtime to have a cup of coffee and read the papers.

Robin was chair of the society between 2003 and 2006. Usually he parks his wheelchair inside the porch of the HLSI but, seeing that it was busy and too narrow, he left it outside.

Yet when he emerged from the reading room and went outside two hours later at 2pm, it was gone.

The 86-year-old said: "I was completely lost. It was flabbergasting. They rang the police for me and looked around Pond Square to see if somebody had moved it, or taken it and left it."

Robin Farlie in his motorised wheelchair, during a holiday to the Lake District earlier this year. Picture: Judith FarlieRobin Farlie in his motorised wheelchair, during a holiday to the Lake District earlier this year. Picture: Judith Farlie

His wife Judith then picked him up and took him home.

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Robin, who first moved to Highgate in 1964, was diagnosed with the back condition spondylitis last year.

Its impact varies from day to day. Sometimes, he can manage to get around the house he shares with his wife Judith in Broadlands Road. But when it's particularly sore, he is reduced to using the wheelchair and sitting down more.

Getting the chair in February has been incredibly useful to them both, Robin said, including during a holiday earlier this summer.

"It's been an enormous relief to me and my wife," he told the Ham&High. "I haven't been driving for the last year and she has had to take me everywhere by car, which is a terrible strain on her.

"In the chair I can go down to the GP, to appointments at the Whittington, to the pharmacy and out on a Saturday morning. It has been a lifeline for us."

The situation was made worse by the fact the couple are due to travel to Scotland later this month for their grandaughter's wedding in Linlithgow. Luckily they've managed to get a new chair ordered after the theft on Saturday, but they want to warn others about the risks in Highgate.

"I found it very sad when it happened," he said. "It is normally quite a quiet place. This kind of thing just goes on and on. We think it's a safe place but it's a bit misleading. We don't live in such a special, select kind of place."

The Met Police confirmed there had been no arrests

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