THEFTS of Poppy Appeal boxes have been branded disgraceful and despicable by veterans and Royal British Legion supporters.
Four Poppy Appeal boxes were stolen in Portsmouth on Thursday and Friday with prolific shoplifter Lewis Healy being jailed for two of the thefts after he was caught on CCTV.
Another box was stolen from the Southern Co-op in Denmead. Police are hunting the couple responsible after they too were caught on CCTV, (pictured above).
Police are also investigating the other two thefts, one of which was taken from the Co-op in Highland Road, Southsea at 9.30pm on Thursday and one which was taken from the Co-op in Albert Road on Friday at 9.30pm.
The thefts have provoked outrage from the community, veterans and Royal British Legion supporters.
Veteran Harry Marrington, who served in the Royal Navy and was on transport ship MT Olvina on D-Day, spoke of his anger. The 90-year-old from Fareham said: ‘The culprits should be taken across to France and Belgium. They should also be shown camps where things happened, like the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp.
‘I cannot describe the horrors there. It is beyond anything you could ever imagine. Thefts like this hurt me. I have not led a perfect life but this is low.’
Portsmouth’s Poppy Appeal co-ordinator Louise Purcell said four boxes were taken from shops in Southsea on Thursday and Friday last week.
Healy, a prolific shoplifter and drug addict, was sent to jail by magistrates on Saturday. He admitted taking two boxes – one from the Shell petrol station in Goldsmith Avenue and one from the Co-op in Highland Road – pictured inset – as well as stealing £89 of goods from Boots in Commercial Road.
The 26-year-old, of Mayhall Road, Copnor, was sentenced to six weeks in jail for each of the thefts.
Ms Purcell valued each box at more than £100 and said the thefts were ‘stealing directly from the veterans’ pockets.’
She said: ‘This year the boxes could have a lot of money in them as it is the anniversary of the start of the First World War and it is the 70th anniversary since D-Day. These people laid down their lives for this country and it is disgusting someone could take money that should go to veterans and their beneficiaries.’
Poppy Appeal co-ordinators slammed the thefts. Olive Rush, 72, has collected for the Royal British Legion for 30 years, said: ‘It is an utter disgrace.’
Richard Brown, 77, the Waterlooville Poppy Appeal co-ordinator, said: ‘It is despicable.’
PC Amanda Smith from Southsea police station, who investigated the collection box thefts said: ‘Crimes like this sadly do happen from time to time and even though we have had four recently in Portsmouth they still generally remain quite rare.
‘Most thieves won’t stoop that low and take charity boxes. It is a despicable crime and is even more emotive at this time of year.
‘We’d urge shops who have charity collection boxes to take extra care of them and to take what security measure they can to help prevent thefts like this such as putting them near staff and in view of any CCTV. It will deter most thieves but for those it doesn’t then, like Lewis Healy found out, CCTV can prove useful in helping us to identify the thief.’
Anyone with information is asked to call police on 101.
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