THIEVES are believed to have stolen a woman’s engagement ring from her hand while she was being treated in hospital for a stroke.

Maureen Ford’s devastated husband Stephen, 67, has now made an emotional appeal for its return.

Mr Ford presented the ring to 72-year-old Maureen, 47 years ago, and says it means the world to him and his wife and wants whoever stole it to do the right thing and give it back.

It is a white gold ring with a quarter carat diamond on a Tiffany setting.

Mr Ford, who is suffering from leukemia and refusing to have treatment until his wife gets better, said: “It’s really not about the value or about anyone being punished, we just want the ring back.”

Mrs Ford was wearing the engagement band along with four other rings, when her husband visited her on Basildon Hospital’s Linford Ward last Friday.

When Mr Ford returned the next day the ring had gone.

He searched the bed clothes and the area surrounding Mrs Ford’s bed, but could not find it.

An emotional Mr Ford even remembers travelling to Dartford by ferry to choose the ring.

He said: “I intended to propose to Maureen on the Christmas Eve so hid the ring inside a balloon which I blew up and put in the house.

“But then I was called in to work to do some overtime so was not actually there when she found it.

“She was with her mum and dad when she found it and I only spoke to her the next day.”

Maureen is suffering problems with her memory as a result of the stroke.

Mr Ford added: “I want to get the ring back so it will help prompt her memories of us.

Maybe the ring dropped off her finger and someone could have picked it up.

“If anyone has it, please just hand it in to the police.”

A spokesman from Essex Police said: “We are investigating an allegation of theft of a white gold solitaire ring from a patient at Basildon Hospital.

“Police were contacted shortly after 1pm on Monday, July 28, to reports that the ring was missing.

Investigations are continuing.”

A spokesman from Basildon Hospital, said: “The Trust is committed to providing a safe and secure environment for our patients.

“Linford Ward staff have carried out several searches for Mrs Ford’s missing ring.

“They remain vigilant and will continue to search, and the Trust will cooperate fully with any police investigation. We advise patients not to bring items of value into hospital with them.

Where this is unavoidable, we ask patients to hand any valuables to staff for safekeeping.”

Police team give home makeover

ABOUT 50 police officers from across the county have been working together to help renovate Stephen and Maureen’s home.

The team led by special constable Dan O’Connell worked flat out for a week to adapt the house in Outwood Common Road for Maureen who has mobility problems.

Dan first met Mr Ford, 67, when he took a statement from him following an attack in Billericay High Street in June.

During the interview Mr Ford told the officer he was struggling to get help from social services for work to the house.

Dan took to Facebook and managed to persuade an army of officers to give up their free time to redecorate the house and give the garden a face-lift.

In just six days they laid new carpets, new floors, painted, wallpapered, cleaned and plastered.

Many of the materials were donated by local businesses, including B & Q and Next.

Mr Ford hopes to have his wife Maureen back in their home in the next few weeks.