• STV
  • MySTV

Celebrities back disabled girl's stolen speech aid appeal

A £1000 donation from football legend Paul Gascoigne helped push the campaign.

The stolen computer belonged to 16-year-old Miya Thirlby
The stolen computer belonged to 16-year-old Miya Thirlby Family Handout/PA Wire

Celebrities and sports stars, including football legend Paul Gascoigne, have backed an appeal to help a disabled teenager after thieves stole the computer that allows her to communicate.

The device belonged to 16-year-old Miya Thirlby, who has cerebral palsy and epilepsy which has meant she cannot talk.

A donation by Gazza, along with his message of support, helped push an online campaign raising funds for a new device to hit its £6,000 target within hours of getting started.

The former footballer pledged funds in a tweet, saying: "I'll donate a £1000 now towards a new one for ya, get in touch wiv us Love GAZZA xxxx."

Paul Gascoigne's support helped raised funds for a new device
Paul Gascoigne's support helped raised funds for a new device PA

There were also calls for thieves to return the device, with Alan Shearer writing on Twitter: "Come on man. Do the decent thing and please somehow get the machine back to this little girl."

His message was re-tweeted by Dawn French, Jennifer Saunders and ITV Good Morning Britain presenter Piers Morgan, among others.

The computer is important to Miya, whose uses the £5,700 Accent 1400 with software to generate speech from images she looks at.

The family has been desperate to get back the machine, which was stolen from the family car in Plymouth, because it has been specially adapted for her eyes.

Miya Thirlby (left) with her mum Kerrie and twin Macie
Miya Thirlby (left) with her mum Kerrie and twin Macie Family Handout/PA Wire

The appeal by her father, Paul Johnson, was picked up by Shearer, Gazza, Andy Murray and others on Twitter and quickly went viral.

Mr Johnson, 40 and a Newcastle United fan, said the reaction to his tweet had been "nuts".

"It's quite overwhelming," he said. "It restores your faith in human nature."

He said the thieves may have thought they were stealing a normal computer because it was kept in a laptop bag.

The computer and software generates speech from the images at which Miya (right) is looking
The computer and software generates speech from the images at which Miya (right) is looking Family Handout/PA Wire

The machine has pictures of Miya's father, mother Kerrie Thirlby and her twin Macie, and it says their names if Miya looks at the images.

Mr Johnson urged anyone who might know where it is to hand it in to a responsible person.

The online fundraiser for a new device was started by a well-wisher.

Mr Johnson had initially hoped it would be unnecessary as he had hoped the equipment would be returned.

Earlier, he said: "Plymouth is not that big and word has spread so I am pretty sure the people who did this will know by now.

"It's looking doubtful we will get it back but you never know."

One account. All of STV.

This field is required. That doesn't look like a valid e-mail format, please check. That e-mail's already in our system. Please try again.
ShowHide
Forgot password?
This field is required. At least 6 characters please. Did you enter your details correctly?
If you've forgotten your details then use the 'Forgot password?' link.
Need to reset your password?

We'll send a link to reset your password to

We've sent you details on how to reset your password

Please check your email and follow the instructions.

Forgotten your email address?

Have you forgotten the email address that you previously joined with? Don't worry, by emailing enquiries@stv.tv we can help.

One account. All of STV.

This field is required. Please enter at least 2 characters
This field is required. Please enter at least 2 characters
At least 6 characters please
ShowHide
This field is required. At least 6 characters please.
You have to be 16 or over to join
This field is required. This doesn't appear to be a valid date
Type your full postcode and select your address This field is required. It doesn't look like you've entered a valid postcode. Can't find your address? Confirm the details you've given us are correct by clicking here

By continuing you agree to our Terms of Use, including our Privacy Policy and Cookie Policy. Any issues contact us.

Upload Profile Picture

Please make sure your image is under 2mb in size and a valid JPG, PNG or GIF.

Are you sure?

Unfortunately, you'll be unable to access our premium content. We’ll be sorry to see you go, but if you change your mind you can rejoin us at any time.

Please verify your STV account

Please verify your STV account using the email we sent you. If you have lost the email, we can send you another one, just click the button below.

Thanks

We've sent you a new verification email.
Please check your email and follow the instructions to verify your account.

Welcome to STV
Thanks for joining us.

Oops!

Sorry, you must be at least 12 years old to place a vote for your Real Hero.

Please review our Voting Terms of Use for more information.

Oops!

Sorry! It seems that you are using a browser that is incompatible with our voting service.

To register your vote please copy the below URL in to your regular mobile browser. We recommend Google Chrome, or Safari.

http://shows.stv.tv/real-heroes/voting

Oops!

Sorry, you seem to have already voted in this category.

Thanks for voting

Now share your vote with friends on your social network

Share on twitter Share on facebook

Cast your vote

Please register or sign in to continue.

Cast your vote

This field is required. This doesn't appear to be a valid date

Cast your vote

Please fill out this form to cast your vote. As you are under 16 years old you will not create an STV account. Why do we need these details?

This field is required. Please enter at least 2 characters
This field is required. Please enter at least 2 characters
This field is required. That doesn't look like a valid e-mail format, please check.
Location This field is required.
Parental Consent This field is required.

That's you. All that's left is to click the 'Submit Vote' button below. By doing so, you confirm that you and your parent or guardian have read and accept our Voting Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Cookie policy, and that the details you have entered are correct. We'll look after them as carefully as if they were our own.