An autistic boy’s Christmas present was destroyed after arsonists burned down a shed his parents had converted into a sensory room.
Fiona, 34, and Wesley Ratcliff of Greater Manchester, England, were saving money for months and spent hours installing a summer house furnished with lights, music and a padded floor for their 7-year-old son Harvey, Manchester Evening News reported.
But when they went to show Harvey the gift on Christmas Day, they discovered that the equipment was stolen and arsonists had set the shed on fire.
Police described the attack as “cowardly and disgusting.”
"Harvey is autistic and suffers from Phelan-McDermid syndrome,” Fiona, 34, told Manchester Evening News. “He has a processing disorder and he doesn't recognise danger. Sometimes he forgets skills he's learned and there are mornings when he wakes up and cannot remember how to walk."
Fiona, a mother of two and who works part-time, added, “He's really hard to get presents for and everyone wanted to chip in. "It was going to be his own space, somewhere safe where he could do his own thing.
"We bought the shed for about £500 and he loves lights and music so we got lasers, disco lights, rope lights and a digital radio. We also laid a padded floor so he wouldn't hurt himself and painted it blue because he's a massive City fan."
The disaster occurred just before Harvey was supposed to see his gift, and his dad Wesley, 32, a support worker, went out to set it up.
"Everyone was devastated,” Wesley told LBC Radio 97.3. “We had family come down from Scotland. They had put in the money towards helping us build it. They had all come down to see his face.
"We are all in shock. The consequence with what could have happened. It being so close to the house - I think we are lucky."
The fire also spread to the family’s guinea pig hutch, but the two guinea pigs escaped unharmed.
"This truly is heartbreaking,” Detective Inspector Jane Curran said. “The family, like every other family across Greater Manchester, were really looking forward to showing their son his Christmas present. Whoever did this really has no morals whatsoever. It is a disgusting and cowardly crime. Thankfully, we think the weather overnight extinguished the fire otherwise we may have been dealing with a much more serious incident today.”