A POOLE reverend has been targeted by criminals posing as policemen during his latest mercy mission to Zimbabwe.

Rev Alan Clarredge, who established the Rivers of Living Water charity, was pulled over as he drove out of the capital Harare to start distributing aid to hospitals in rural parts of the African nation.

“He demanded my car, then my money,” said the 73-year-old of Rossmore Gospel Church, Poole. “As I had heard about the danger drivers were in I gave him all the money I had at the time, about forty dollars, and a copy of my book Rivers of Living Water.”

According to the UK Government unemployment remains high in Zimbabwe, driving a “moderate level of crime” including “occasional armed robberies targeting foreign visitors”.

It’s growing more frequent for criminals to pose as policemen on the roads surrounding the capital, said Mr Clarredge.

The reverend, who jetted back to the UK earlier this month following his five-week trip, had been distributing aid and repairing water purification systems among rural communities in Zimbabwe. He visited a number of orphanages and repaired purification systems at 22 health clinics.

“I took out between £14,000 - £18,000 of water equipment, medicines and food this time around,” he told the Daily Echo. “Much of this had been donated by people in Dorset – they donate so much, it is remarkable.”

Mr Clarredge, who treated Zimbabwe’s first lady – Sally Francesca Hayfron – while working as a medical technician in Zimbabwe throughout the 1980s, has been organising mercy missions to rural communities in the country for years.

He said: “Crime and unemployment are high in the country at the moment. It is much worse than I’ve seen in recent years.

“The people are poorer because there is no work for them. There is food in the main cities, but it is very expensive and people in rural areas cannot afford it.”

Mr Clarredge is hoping to raise enough funds to completely renovate the water purification system he installed 12 years ago at the main hospital in Bulawayo.

“People up to 100 miles away rely on this hospital,” he said.

To find out more on the charity, visit riversoflivingwater.co.uk