‘It’s despicable’: Military veterans and vicar condemn burglar who stole church’s Poppy Appeal cash

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MILITARY veterans and church staff have condemned a ‘desperate’ burglar who broke into a Portsmouth church and stole money from a Poppy Appeal tin.

The offender forced his way through the front doors of Christ Church, in London Road, last Friday evening and snatched about £50 from the tin and collection box.

The 'Reverend Andy Wilson at Christ Church in London Road, Widley

The 'Reverend Andy Wilson at Christ Church in London Road, Widley

The Rev Andy Wilson, who has led the church for about 10 years, said ‘It has been quite distressing for our congregation here to know the money they gave is gone.

‘This is a church with a long military history and we have a strong connection with the Royal British Legion so we collect money every year.

‘It’s upsetting to have the money stolen. I’ve had members of the congregation come to me and tell me they put their money in there.’

There are about 1,000 appeal tins in the Portsmouth area, with the money raised supporting the armed forces community.

It has been quite distressing for our congregation here to know the money they gave is gone.

Reverend Andy Wilson

Chris Purcell, a Falklands War veteran and appeal volunteer, said it was the third tin in the area to be ransacked this year, following two last year.

He said: ‘We have this nearly every year and no-one ever comes forward. It’s very sad, and these people must be desperate.

‘It’s despicable. It’s very upsetting for the congregation, because next year instead of giving a pound they might only give 50p.

‘A couple of years ago we chained one of our tins to a bench, and someone broke the bench to steal the money.’

Portsmouth North MP Penny Mordaunt said she was sickened to hear of the burglary.

She said: ‘This is appalling and I hope the culprits are caught.

‘Portsmouth poppy volunteers raised over £100,000 last year and every penny goes to support those serving in our armed forces and veterans.

‘Taking money charitably given to that cause is very low indeed.’

Donna Jones, Portsmouth City Council leader, has called on people to rally on the wake of the crime, and throw their weight behind the Poppy Appeal.

She said: ‘The recent theft of donations of Poppy Appeal collections is a shocking opportunity crime. I would urge anyone with any information to come forward.’

Investigating officer PC David Ronchetti said: ‘This is a particularly disgraceful crime in which money, donated by the public and destined for good causes, has been stolen.’