THIEVES have dealt a vicious blow to a Sheffield family’s hopes of creating a lasting memorial fund for their 22-year-old climber son, after he died in the French Alps.
Around £1,400 in donations and sponsorship money for the James Brownhill Memorial Fund was stolen in a break-in at James’ girlfriend’s house in Manchester.
The news came as his parents, Gary and Christine, twin brother Joe and older brother Tom, were preparing to visit Chamonix, where the accident happened in July.
Unless the money is returned, it will knock two years off the predicted lifespan of the fund, which aims to encourage a higher level of safety in university climbing clubs.
Gary, an accountant from Lodge Moor, said the theft was ‘massively disappointing’ and added: “The loss is one thing, but it’s the fact so many bad things can happen in such a short period of time.”
Gary hopes the burglars will feel remorse when they find out what the money was to be used for, or that they will be caught for the theft, which occurred in the Whalley Range area of Manchester on Tuesday.
James had been a keen climber since the age of 17. He had been to Chamonix region each year since 2007 and summited Mont Blanc twice, last year with twin Joe.
He died on July 1 after falling more than 2,500ft from the Frendo Spur, near Chamonix. His climbing partner David Evans from Liverpool, was also killed.
The money was stolen from the house of his 24-year-old girlfriend, Sinead Ennis, who recently completed a sponsored sprint triathlon and the Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge for the fund.
Thieves ransacked the property, which Sinead shared with two other tenants, after breaking in through patio doors.
Gary said: “She had got all the euros and sterling from sponsorship and donations, and because she was working, she never got to the bank. We hope they realise it is not just a case of taking the money, but there will be ramifications.”
Enough money had been raised to give bursaries for nine years – but unless the money is found the fund’s lifespan will shrink to seven years.
Manchester Police say the break-in occurred between 7.30am and 3.15pm and think three men were involved.