TWO thieves who used a child as a decoy to plunder cash meant for a children’s charity have been branded a ‘disgrace.’
The brazen pair took just two minutes to distract staff before snatching a Variety Club collection from the counter of a Co-op store in Portsmouth.
They were caught on CCTV sauntering up to the till at the Cambridge Road shop in Old Portsmouth, with the unsuspecting young boy.
CCTV footage shows the youngster, dressed in a green and white T-shirt and dark coloured trousers, pointing at something on the counter.
Then both men grab hold of something before the first man – pictured wearing a white T-shirt, and grey cap – goes to the till with the little boy to pay for goods.
Meanwhile the second man – dressed in a yellow T-shirt, dark shorts with three white stripes down each side and a dark cap – casually picks up the collection and shoves it into his left pocket.
He hangs around for a few seconds until the other man completes his transaction. Then they leave with the boy in tow and the stolen cash – which had been destined to help sick and disadvantaged local children.
Variety Club spokeswoman Deborah Carey said: ‘These thieves are a disgrace and we condemn all such activity. This cash was meant for disabled and disadvantaged children across the UK and that money was probably raised for children in the Portsmouth area because we have regional committees.
‘It is taking the money from children and young people who need help.’
Police have just released the CCTV of the theft – which happened at about 5pm on April 19 – in the hope of bringing the suspects to justice.
The public are urged to shop the men immediately if they recognise them.
Rod Jebb, a crime desk investigator based at Fratton police station, said: ‘The two men have come into the shop with a child. The child can be seen pointing out the charity box first.
‘It almost appears as though the two males then put a donation in the box.
‘Then one of the men is seen – quite overtly seen – picking up the box and putting it in his left-hand pocket. The other one is buying something at the till, with the little boy as a decoy. Then they leave. It’s all very quick.
‘It’s horrible. This is an unpleasant crime – this sort of crime is indefensible.’
A spokeswoman from The Co-operative said: ‘We are obviously very disappointed with the theft of charity funds that took place from our Cambridge Road store on April 19. CCTV has been passed to the police who are investigating and we would appeal for anyone with any information to come forward.’
Anyone with information is asked to contact Fratton police station on 101 or 0845 0454545 quoting crime reference number 44110164346, or call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111.