Billy the Bus stolen in cruel heist from Cromwell artist Judy Cockeram

A Cromwell woman wants help catching her missing bus.

Judy Cockeram’s 1962 Bedford J2 bus has been stolen from land she owns in the Kawarau Gorge.

Billy the Bus had been a sanctuary and retreat for the Cromwell artist since 2016.

Cockeram owned about half a hectare off State Highway 6 above the Kawarau River.

In September 2016, she moved her bus on to the site, using it as a “crib” or holiday lodging.

A stove had been installed in the former Ritchies Transport bus, and a deck was created around it.

“The intention was that I could have a place I could come and sleep, and just enjoy being here.”

The last time she saw the bus was when she drove past the site on February 24.

On Thursday just before the Easter break, a friend contacted Cockeram to say she had driven past and did not see the bus, so on Good Friday she visited the site to discover the bus was gone.

Cockeram was saddened and mystified at the disappearance and she believed someone had to have staked out the location beforehand.

The road entrance to her section was virtually invisible, with not even a mailbox, and from SH6 only the roof of Billy the Bus could be seen.

“Unless you knew where you were looking, most people didn’t even see him.”

It seemed the thieves came prepared, she said.

A bolt cutter was used to cut through a padlock, and Cockeram found empty cans of a degreasing spray that she thought was used to get the tyres moving.

She didn’t think anyone would be able to even get the engine going after four years and it would have been difficult to even move the bus off the section.

“It wasn’t lighthearted, it was considered.”

Items including the deck made from pallets and anything the thieves didn’t want were unceremoniously thrown off the bus.

“They threw out anything they didn’t want.”

To add further insult to injury, when she posted on social media about the missing bus, including writing a poem about it, she experienced online bullying, with messages that became increasingly nasty and taunting, she said.

It was “out of control, so I stopped reading”.

Cockeram has reported the theft to police.

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