An elderly couple from St Ives say they are fearful after their van’s tyre was slashed, and an anonymous letter telling them to “get on with dying” was posted through their front door.

Peter and Kay Hewitt, of Chaucer Way, thought they had suffered a puncture when they first noticed the rear tyre on their Motability Scheme van had gone flat on November 23.

The couple use the van to help Mr Hewitt get around after he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis aged 31 - something he now relies on after losing the ability to walk seven years ago.

"I was going out with my daughter to help me move some furniture and when she came round she said, 'You do realise you've got a flat tyre?'," Mrs Hewitt, 71, told The Hunts Post.

"I called the RAC out and they said 'it's not a puncture, your tyre's been slashed'. We thought it had been drunks going past at night and didn't think much of it."

But the couple, who have lived in St Ives for 40 years, realised they had been victims of a hate crime after an anonymous letter was posted through their door just two days later.

"We thought it was a Christmas card, but then it didn't look right for a Christmas card and inside was a folded piece of paper," Mr Hewitt, 70, said.

The letter, which was postmarked from Peterborough, read: "Slashed tyre. Expect more. I support you with my taxes but you're rude and nasty. Leave my country or get on with dying."

Mrs Hewitt said: "I was shocked and tearful [when I read it]. I think it took several days for the shock to wear off and the district nurse the next morning was a bit concerned about how it affected Peter."

Mr Hewitt says he hasn't let it bother him but the couple sealed their letterbox shut for two days during the evenings and are now looking to install an extra security light and CCTV.

The police are aware of the incidents and say both are being investigated, along with exploring forensic opportunities.

Mrs Hewitt also said the culprit might have been caught if the street lights on their road had been kept on overnight, but that they are currently turned off between 2am and 6am.

"If it had happened while the street light was on I think there could have been a chance they were seen," she said.

Councillor Debbie Townsend, mayor of St Ives, said: "I must say how appalled I am to hear of such an incident happening and I do hope the police are able to find the culprit who committed this unacceptable and nasty crime."

In May, councillors sent a letter to the county council expressing concern about the turning off of street lights, with a review currently taking place.

Cllr Townsend added: "The town council continues to monitor the situation and will pursue the data that is being compiled by the county council on road accident and crime data."