A self-employed carpenter has been left devastated after his van - and thousands of pounds worth of equipment - was stolen from his driveway.

And his agony was made worse when he found out it had been seen just 500 metres from his home, but police could not tell him where due to security restrictions.

Marc Firkins who lives in Cowdray Avenue, Colchester, arrived home on the evening of October 5, but within less than an hour of going in, thieves had broken into his Ford Transit T350 and stolen it.

The 44-year-old said it was more than just a vehicle as he depends on it for his livelihood.

Mr Firkins said: “I phoned the police straight away at 8.25pm to report it stolen, and we got a few people to start looking for it.”

He said someone saw the van parked on Leete Drive the following morning only 500 metres away from where it was stolen.

Mr Firkins went on: “The police said they had seen it, but they couldn’t tell me where because of data protection laws.”

In a statement, Essex Police said the reason they could not reveal where they had seen the van was because it would reveal the location of automatic number plate recognition cameras.

It said: “ANPR cameras are a key tool used by officers to track and locate stolen vehicles.

“For operational and intelligence sensitivities, we do not disclose their locations.”

Mr Firkins added: “It was stolen from my house on a Tuesday and then whoever stole it left it a few minutes away – probably to see if there was a tracker on it.

“My wife absolutely flooded social media with pictures and an appeal.”

But as soon as the thieves realised there wasn’t a tracker on the van, they stole it for good.Gazette: Stolen – Mark Firkins' van had all his equipment he uses as a carpenter. Have you seen this van? Stolen – Mark Firkins' van had all his equipment he uses as a carpenter. Have you seen this van?

He said: “I’ve had to get a loan out to buy some tools so that I can keep working, but my van and my tools were my life, and it’s all gone. My life at the moment is ruined – I’m not suicidal, but I’m not far from it.

“We do everything we should do. We pay tax and do everything we should as human beings, and it’s just been wiped out from underneath our feet.”

The van is white with the registration number MS64 MAF.