Robbers Steal £20,000 of VR Equipment From Lothians Social Enterprise

Thieves broke into an East Lothian social enterprise on Saturday and lifted £20,000 worth of high-tech virtual reality equipment. 

On Saturday 9th of February, thieves made off with virtual reality (VR) equipment worth £20,000, as well as a hospice collection tin. The criminals stole headsets and computers which enable virtual reality experiences for users of all ages.

The staff at virtual reality company, Viarama, have had to put their work with children, the elderly and terminally ill on hold to deal with the situation. As a result of the theft, Viarama has also cancelled visits to Granton Primary School and St Columba’s Hospice this week.

Commenting on the robbery, Viarama chief executive Billy Agnew said: “They smashed their way through a side window, clambered through and basically took everything. We work in schools, nursing homes and respite centres but all work has to stop at the moment.”

At this time no descriptions of the thieves are available but police are investigating the crime. “We don’t have CCTV unfortunately. We don’t receive any funding so money is tight,” said Agnew.

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He continued, “We rely on people’s goodwill which has worked until now and they’ve been great. These things happen and we can’t dwell on it”.

Moving forward, the firm is hoping supporters can help them get back on their feet and is currently seeking out all possible avenues such as philanthropic donations to get it back on track.

“The community have rallied round which is great,” said Agnew. “They’re in the process of organising a crowd-funder. The response of Facebook has been overwhelming. We’ve had messages of goodwill from all over the world.”

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The company, which was founded in 2015 as the world’s first VR social enterprise, uses VR to help enrich and improve the quality of life of school children, senior citizens, and others.

It employees two full-time staff and offers part-time placements for young workers. Viarama also trains people to deliver VR to schools, nursing homes, hospices, and respite centres.

“Staff are upset because I can’t offer them any work at the moment. We were just about to take on another full-time member of staff but that can’t happen,” said Agnew.

A police spokeswoman said: “A break-in occurred between 7 pm on February 8 and 11 am on February 9. A number of electrical items were taken from within along with a small amount of cash.”

Anyone with information can contact officers on 101 quoting reference 1729 of February 9 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.



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