CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

Charlie George (the camper van) kidnapped

Missing Arsenal-themed vehicle is found miles away from couple’s home

04 July, 2019 — By Samantha Booth

Double season hero Charlie George and the red and white van named after him

TWO Arsenal fans whose camper van, which is decked out in red and white and named after double winner Charlie George, were left distraught when it was “kidnapped” from outside their Chalk Farm home.

But in an amazing comeback, Mandy Berger and Barry Walden were celebrating this week after the pinched vehicle was found by chance – three miles away in Brent.

Mandy Berger and Barry Walden with Charlie George

Gunners-supporting locals love Charlie George for ‘his’ Arsenal colours and decoration, which brightens up Bassett Street where the couple live.

He went missing at about 1am last Friday.

“I actually felt like he was kidnapped rather than stolen,” said Ms Berger, 60, well-known for her work as a Unison convenor at the council.

“Everyone knows how much we love that van.” Desperate to trace the beloved van, she posted an appeal on Facebook and it was shared more than 300 times, with friends as far away as North Wales keeping an eye out.

The van is kitted out in Arsenal’s colours

And on Sunday, the incredible news came through that Charlie George had been spotted by a friend.

Ms Berger said: “Unbelievably, just as we were grieving and decided we would have to move on, one of my son’s friends was going on a job on Sunday in an area he’s never been to before, and he saw him. And he was screaming down the phone.”

Some of the damage inside the retrieved van

Charlie George was parked on a pavement near what is believed to be a garage. Although reunited with his owners, the van had been stripped of most of its interior.

As well as enormous sentimental worth, an estimated £2,500 to £3,000 worth of kit – including camping gear, bedding, books and curtains – had been removed. Ms Berger said police told them it would cost £500 to tow the car and about another £100 to keep it in a pound, and suggested they collect it themselves.

So the van – which took their daughter to her wedding – was hot-wired and brought back to Camden.

Ms Berger, a housing officer, told the New Journal: “All of the community said ‘Oh my god’ when we came back. People know the van because on the back he always has little ornaments, and schoolkids coming down the road used to get lifted up to look inside

Charlie George on wedding duty

She added: “It’s a miracle we got him back – everyone’s saying it’s meant to be.”

Charlie George is now in for repairs before the couple rebuild his interior and add extra security.

The human Charlie George (inset) famously scored the winning goal in the 1971 FA Cup final against Liverpool, which sealed the first of the club’s three doubles.

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