Ex-serviceman guilty of ‘lowest kind of crime’ - stealing poppy tin containing £100 (From Oxford Mail)
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Ex-serviceman guilty of ‘lowest kind of crime’ - stealing poppy tin containing £100
A POSTMASTER said he “couldn’t believe his eyes” when he saw a 72-year-old former serviceman steal a Poppy Appeal tin from his shop.
When charity money went missing from Risinghurst Post Office on Monday, November 5, last year, owner Mahesh Gandhi thought youngsters were to blame.
But reviewing the footage from his shop’s CCTV cameras he clearly saw the culprit was pensioner and regular customer John Thompson.
Thompson, from Malford Road, Barton, Oxford, was an unlikely suspect – he suffers from severe diabetes and arthritis and uses two sticks to walk.
But watching the footage, Mr Gandhi saw him approach the poppy tin. With his back to the camera, Thompson moved the tin and, when he stepped away, it had vanished.
The sub-postmaster said: “I went through the CCTV after I noticed the poppy box had gone missing, but I thought it was just children mucking about. Unfortunately that’s not what I saw. I couldn’t believe my eyes.
“But I checked very carefully before I pointed the finger at anyone. You can see when he puts it in his shopping bag and when he looks to see if anyone is around.”
He said the other poppy tin in his shop had raised around £200 for the Royal British Legion and estimated there must have been at least £100 in the stolen tin.
A few days later the tin was left outside his shop, but it had been opened and contained only £1.88.
After the hearing Mr Gandhi said: “Because it is a poppy box I feel very strongly about it. “That was not the right signal to send to the community. People should show respect to those who sacrificed their lives during the war.”
During his trial for theft at Oxford Magistrates’ Court on Wednesday, Thompson repeatedly denied having anything to do with the theft – despite being shown the CCTV footage.
Prosecutor Steve Molloy told the defendant that the video left “no other explanation” for how the tin had moved and then disappeared completely.
He said: “You are not in possession of magical powers or anything like that, are you?”
Thompson replied: “No, I don’t know what the explanation is. I don’t consciously recall moving it.”
But after the magistrates found him guilty it was revealed that the pensioner had committed a further 40 offences, dating back to 1964, including a number of thefts.
He was ordered to pay a £225 fine, £300 costs, £100 compensation and a £23 victims’ surcharge.
Chairman of the magistrates Richard Gan said: “We find the nature of this offence distasteful.
“The taking of charitable money from such an honourable cause is made more difficult to understand because you are yourself an ex-serviceman.”
No details were given in court of his military record, and the Ministry of Defence refused to comment. Speaking after the hearing, Headington Royal British Legion chairman Terry Cox said: “Given his age and his background, he should have known better.
“We are collecting for old servicemen and women, there really is no need to do something like this. And it puts people off giving when they hear the tins have been stolen. “It really is the lowest kind of crime.”
A spokesman for the Royal British Legion added: “The loss of funds resulting from the theft of a poppy collecting tin deprives those in the service and ex-service community and their families of much-needed assistance and support from the legion.”
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