THIEVES who stole church charity collections – including Poppy Appeal cash – have been branded ‘disgraceful’.
Thieves drilled their way into Broadways coffee shop – linked to St John The Baptist Church – and removed security bars to get into the London Road premises in Purbrook through a window.
Once inside, they trashed the volunteer-run shop and fled with collections for The Poppy Appeal in aid of the Royal British Legion, along with collections for the church’s Christmas fair.
Christopher Yeo, 67, who runs the shop, said: ‘It’s disgraceful. I can’t understand what goes through people’s minds to actually do things like that.
‘I noticed the inside of the till was on the counter. When I walked round I saw the cupboards had all been opened.
‘They had gone through the drawers and just emptied them all out. Then to the back there was a parcel that was left for me containing cleaning fluid for our coffee machine, but they had opened that and there was paper all over the floor. Then I saw the British Legion box, which had been broken open.
‘With the Christmas fair coming up, we were selling raffle tickets for the church and Christmas puddings. That money was gone as well.
‘The Rowans Hospice collection had mostly pennies and five pences in it. They just left it lying on the floor.’
Police and forensics experts were called in after the break-in, which happened between 7.30pm on Friday and 9.30am on Saturday.
It is believed up to £80 was stolen.
Mr Yeo added: ‘In my mind they are targeting the British Legion. They know there’s going to be money in their collections. This is our first break-in and we’ve been here nearly 10 years.
‘The window is quite high up as well. They knew what they were doing.’
Catherine Kitchener, Royal British Legion manager for Hampshire and Dorset, said: ‘We are saddened that somebody would steal a Poppy Appeal collection. The loss of something like that, however large or small, will deprive the community and families of the support that they need and deserve.
‘We have a huge amount of support and large sums are collected in Hampshire but even so, it’s very sad when people feel the need to deprive people in this way.’
Call Hampshire police on 101.