A refugee couple’s dream of returning to Africa with a container-load of goods for their family and the poor has been destroyed by arsonists.

Martha Danga, 41, and her partner Shame Murimi, 40, who fled Zimbabwe in 2001, had spent seven years buying and collecting electrical equipment, clothes, shoes, school books and toys to make lives better for families in the capital, Harare.

But the goods, valued at £50,000, were destroyed when the lorry they were in was deliberately set on fire outside their home in Glenlee Road, Lidget Green, Bradford, early yesterday. Mum-of-three Miss Danga, a support worker at a Keighley care home, said: “We are destroyed – it’s unbelievable. We are devastated and our family is devastated. We have been working for seven years for nothing.

“We did not have anything and have worked very hard for our families, friends and poor people. My sons have been ringing and saying what has happened to our radios and I have had to tell them they have been burned. It is a nightmare. We do not know why people would do this. We were looking forward to going home after the political situation changed but now we do not know what will happen.”

The couple were woken shortly after 1am by firefighters who had been called to a small, privately-owned car park where three large trucks belonging to the couple were parked. Two were empty and left untouched but the third, fully-laden with goods, including items donated by well-wishers for Zimbabwean children, was ablaze.

A Fairweather Green fire station spokesman said the Iveco lorry was a write-off along with most of the goods inside.

A West Yorkshire Fire Service investigation officer said: “There were also other arson attacks on cars in this area a couple of weeks ago. We are looking at the incident being arson.

“The arsonists may damage the couple’s house next so I am here to give them advice and look at installing smoke alarms and maybe also seal their letter box.”

Miss Danga, who had originally fled her home country with Mr Murimi as their lives had been in danger from thugs acting on behalf of President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party, said the truck had contained goods which would have benefited “more than 100 families”.

“It’s horrible,” she said. “We don’t know what to do now. If we go back we will go back empty-handed. I have sons aged eight, nine and 12 and had everything for them.”

The truck, she said, was not insured as it was not being driven on public roads and was parked on private land.

A police spokesman confirmed they were investigating the incident and called for anyone with information to contact them on 08456060606 or anonymously via Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.

Anyone who wants to give replacement goods for the couple to take back to Zimbabwe can contact Miss Danga on 07804 706571 or e-mail: murimi@talktalk.net.