Chernobyl charity hits out as thief takes charity box

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A STRUGGLING charity which helps children has hit out after a thief stole one of its collection boxes.

Members of the Portsmouth and Hayling Island Link of the Chernobyl Children’s Lifeline are in despair after the box was taken from the Shepherds Crook pub in Goldsmith Avenue, Southsea.

The box, which contained £70 in donations, is believed to have been stolen between 10pm on October 11 and 10pm on October 12 from behind the bar.

It is the latest setback for the charity, which brings youngsters from the disaster-stricken regions of Ukraine and Belarus to the area for a month’s recuperation every summer.

Earlier this year it launched a petition to reverse the government’s decision to introduce an £86 fee on visas for each child visiting from March 2013, as reported by The News.

Team member Chris Penney described the theft as ‘wretched’.

He said: ‘It’s sad news. The pub has been strong supporters of the charity.

‘It’s a small bar so you only need to take your eye off the ball for someone to lift it. It seems wretched this could happen.

‘The staff have no idea how it happened and have been left absolutely devastated by it.

‘It’s really annoying that people can do that – £70 doesn’t seem like a lot to most people but things are tight and it makes a whole lot of difference to the children.’

Rob Baker, vice-chairman of the link charity, said: ‘They have done a lot of good work in there and have been supporting us for quite a while.

‘The issue is they have been raising chunks of money to come up with enough cash to sponsor a child.

‘It’s £70 we need for the kids that arrive in June.

‘It’s soul-destroying as people know it’s for charity.’

Steve Hudson, operations manager at the pub, said: ‘I hope the police are enquiring and we are committed to giving £100 to match the money that was stolen from the charity.

‘We are gutted about it. Julie Crook, the landlady, has worked really hard with customers to collect the money and for someone to take it is pretty bad.’

A spokesman for Hampshire Constabulary said: ‘The theft of a charity box containing around £70 in donations for the Chernobyl Children’s Lifeline was reported to police on October 16.

‘It was reported the theft took place from a pub in Goldsmith Avenue between 10pm on October 11, and 10pm on October 12.’

Anyone with information can contact Southsea police station by phoning 101.

Mini-com users can phone 01962 875000 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111.