A SEARCH and rescue team commended for its efforts over the disappearance of an Oxford woman has made an urgent appeal to replace its main vehicle.

The Oxfordshire Lowland Search and Rescue team (Oxsar) is looking to raise £9,000 for a van that is used as the hub of operations. Members say efforts are hampered without it.

Some 30 volunteers worked through the night after Oxford pensioner Ann Powles and her dog disappeared before Christmas.

Her body was later found under ice in the River Cherwell along with her dog Jumbo. She is thought to have died of heart failure.

The group received a “substantial” donation from her son Christopher who said he was humbled by the volunteers’ efforts.

Now Oxsar is urging county residents to dig deep to get the team back on the road after its previous van was judged beyond repair.

Members are running operations from their cars but cannot get all the team’s equipment to a search.

Chairman Steve Butcher said: “The control van is basically a mobile office, control room and equipment store rolled into one.

“It allows us to coordinate our searches and map out who is searching and where.”

Mr Butcher said: “We would obviously love a brand spanking new van, but Oxfordshire can’t afford to wait that long.

“So we plan to buy a van for £9,000 and transfer all our equipment across ourselves.

“Then we can get out there again, where we are needed. We offer the initial response that the police cannot afford to do.”

The group is reliant on public donations but the recession has hit income, he said.

Mr Powles, from Kirtlington, said: “I was humbled by how all these unpaid volunteers came out in the most atrocious conditions, just before Christmas, to look for my mother very late into the night.”

rpope@oxfordmail.co.uk l For details go to isis-sar.org. uk or contact Steve on 01189 344952 or chair@isis-sar.org.uk