Fire victim robbed while in hospital
"I'M REALLY disappointed people would rob me after I went to hospital when my caravan caught fire."
Sitting by his damaged truck parked at vacant block of land between the former Lismore train station and the Wilson River, Geoff 'Jesse' Rievaulx was a devastated man.
Wearing clothes donated by the hospital social worker and holding a tree branch he was using as a walking stick, Mr Rievaulx looks at the mess which used to be his home.
After being discharged from hospital on Tuesday morning, he returned to find thieves had stolen everything of value which was spared by the fire on March 20, when an electrical fault caused gas cylinders to vent.
"I had called my son and went to lie down about 6pm on the bed, when I smelled smoke thinking I had left something on the stove," he said.
"The wall on the caravan around the power-point was alight and I was burned trying to put it out."
When NSW Fire & Emergency crews attended a few minutes later to extinguish the fire, Mr Rievaulx was treated at the scene by paramedics before being taken to Lismore Base Hospital.
With a kind passer-by Chris Ruane looking after Jackie his beloved dog, Mr Rievaulx was hoping to be back in his truck when discharged.
Instead he returned to what looks like a war zone, with the charred remains of his caravan surrounded by burned items and his truck a mess.
"They've cleaned out all the camping gear and stolen my tools, my solar panels and battery bank," he said.
"Someone came there and took my gas bottles, I have a son just over three and they took some of his toys and threw out the rest into the rain. These people have destroyed what was left of my home, they took my DVD screen and broke the shelf to get it. I'm a pensioner, I don't get take-away or drink beer, it's too expensive and the people who took my belongings then threw out what they didn't want into the rain, they're mongrels."
Mr Rievaulx, a monumental stonemason by trade, said "I built the truck up, fixed it up and it's been a real battle."
"I'm cleaned out everything except my mobility scooter.
"I can't believe they took all my tools."
Now he faces rebuilding his life with nothing more than a few blankets from the hospital.
But he's determined to make a go of it.
"I've reported the theft to the police, someone saw a car there loaded up with my stuff," he said.
"I'll hopefully see my son this week."
Mr Rievaulx said he believed the truck was repairable from the fire damage.
"I can probably repair it myself but I can't afford to pay rent and repair it," he said.
"I have had a good experience at the Winsome Hotel, they are lovely people so maybe I can get some lunch there and slowly get organised."