Smirking youths trash Ponderosa Zoo while singing along to Nativity the Musical

Police are investigating after a gang of youths trashed a building at a Heckmondwike centre which provides activities and support for people with learning difficulties.

Wednesday, 8th September 2021, 11:44 am
Owner Howard Cook at Ponderosa Zoo, Heckmondwike, who faces a £50,000 bill to repair the damage

The yobs – thought to be aged 13 to 15 – smashed their way into former training rooms and kicked in doors, broke windows, smashed up furniture and ripped down light fittings and ceiling tiles.

The teenagers even filmed themselves and posted the footage on social media.

The mindless damage – which could cost as much as £50,000 to put right - was discovered at the Ponderosa Zoo complex off Smithies Lane, Heckmondwike, on Monday night.

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Damage caused at Ponderosa Zoo, Heckmondwike

Howard Cook, who set up what was then the Ponderosa Rural Therapeutic Centre 30 years ago, said he and his family were “gutted” at what had happened.

Mr Cook, who lives on the site, said he and one of his sons were alerted and went down around 7.15pm just as the teenagers were scattering.

Police attended and the full scale of the devastation was revealed. The contents of drawers and cupboards had been thrown around and graffiti was scrawled on walls and furniture.

The centre used to house sewing rooms for people with learning disabilities and was also used to store furniture and other items. Some were treasured family items belonging to Mr Cook’s late wife Maureen.

Damage caused at Ponderosa Zoo, Heckmondwike

Mr Cook said: “The place is wrecked. They’ve smashed every window, every door and every table.

"As a family we work non-stop 24/7 caring for other people. It’s just not right.”

Footage posted on social media shows several young people – their faces clearly visible – lounging around on sofas, making gestures for the camera.

The smirking teens were singing along to "She’s the Brightest Star" from Nativity the Musical. As the camera pans around the devastation is clear to see.

The footage appears to be taken several days ago, suggesting the youths may have been coming and going.

Mr Cook said some parents had been in touch and suggested the culprits come back and clean up the mess but he was waiting to hear back from the police about what action would be taken.

A police spokesperson said: "Police are investigating following a report of criminal damage, which was received at around 7.42pm on Monday.

"Enquiries are ongoing to identify those involved and anyone who can assist with information is asked to contact Kirklees Police on 101 or via the options on the West Yorkshire Police website. The crime reference is 13210452698.

"Information can also be reported anonymously to the independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555111 or online."