A pensioner has offered a reward to the thieves who stole a van containing her "lovely" blind hedgehog if they return the animal unharmed.

Veronica Tett, 77, said she had not slept for two nights since Stephen the hedgehog was taken with the van in Leeds.

Stephen has been cared for by Mrs Tett and her husband Frank at their injured hedgehog charity, in north Lincolnshire, since he was sprayed with chemicals and blinded earlier this year.

Mrs Tett said staff at Andrew's Hedgehog Hospital, in Appleby, near Scunthorpe, were "beside themselves" since Stephen went missing on Saturday morning.

She said Mr Tett, 80, had taken the hedgehog to a monthly show at a market in Albion Street, Leeds, when the van was stolen with Stephen inside.

Mrs Tett, a retired business owner, said:

I need my hedgehog. I don't mind about the van, vans are replaceable, hedgehogs aren't.

Veronica Tett

Mrs Tett said it was "unbearable" to think of what might have happened to Stephen and appealed to people to look out for the new, pale grey cat carrier, with a black wire door, that he was last seen in.

She said:

All my staff are beside themselves, no-one can really concentrate on really doing anything at the moment.

Veronica Tett

She said the hedgehog arrived at the hospital in June.

"He was in a really bad way when he got here because of the chemical burns that he'd got," she said.

"We spent a lot of time with him and a lot of money on vet bills. He was doing great, he was such a lovely hog. He was so grateful, I think, that we made him better. He was very affable and he loved the shows. He doesn't deserve this."

Mrs Tett said she and her husband began looking after hedgehogs 27 years ago when they rescued "Linford and Sally" from a nest that had been abandoned by the mother.

She said:

"We looked after them, we raised them up, we released them both in the garden here, we never saw Sally again but Linford hung around for three or four years.

"He just stole my heart and I thought 'that's it, that's what I want to do'."

The couple care for their hedgehogs until they are well enough to be released into the wild and also run a captive breeding programme with the animals that are too injured to be released.

Mrs Tett said the hospital has around 70 hedgehogs, including eight babies.

She said: "We're still none the wiser what's happened to Stephen, it's just a nightmare and I've had no sleep for two nights. But those babies are keeping me going."

A West Yorkshire Police spokesman said:

Police received a report of a theft of a motor vehicle - a Vauxhall Combo van - at around 8.22am on Saturday morning, from Albion Place, Leeds.

West Yorkshire Police spokesman