Charity thieving trio return unwanted booty

Irene Layton with the returned stolen goods. (To buy:411205L)

Irene Layton with the returned stolen goods. (To buy:411205L)

First published in News

SNOBBY thieves who ransacked a Halesowen charity store returned unwanted boxes of Christmas novelties and baubles.

The discarded booty was dumped outside the garage in Islington which had been burgled the previous day.

But the callous teenagers - who were caught on camera - kept a large stock of bric-a-brac which stalwart fundraising pensioner Irene Layton sells to raise vital cash needed to run Mary Stevens Hospice.

“I guess they thought they wouldn’t be able to sell those things - and at least they brought them back, rather than just throwing them away,” said the 80-year-old widow.

Whether the two youths and a girl, all aged around 16 to 18, had a pang of conscience remains a mystery, but Mrs Layton said they must have realised the stock was for charity.

“There are signs for Mary Stevens in the garage, so they must have known the items were to be sold to raise money for the hospice,” she said.

Mrs Layton, who was awarded the MBE in 2006 in recognition of her amazing fundraising which currently totals about £500,000, was “disheartened” when she discovered the theft.

She started fundraising in 1979 for Hayley Green Hospital, where many cancer patients spent their final days, and switched to helping the Stourbridge hospice when the hospital closed in 1998.

With the help of a small band of volunteers, Mrs Layton’s Halesowen fundraising committee runs stalls selling bric-a-brac and Christmas novelties at fetes, schools and events such as the town’s Victorian Fair, and holds street collections and dances to raise funds for Mary Stevens.

The hospice receives some funding from the Government but relies on donations and fundraising for more than 80 per cent of its £2.3 million annual running costs.

Head of fundraising Vicki Rowles said: “Irene is one of our long-standing volunteers who works very hard for the hospice and I know she would have been really upset at the thought of not being able to do what she wanted for us.

“I find it hard to understand how people could take those sort of things that were obviously for charity fundraising. It’s a sorry world we live in.”

The thieving trio were caught in the cat by an eagle-eyed neighbour, who thought they may be up to no good, but did not ring the police in case they were helping Mrs Layton.

One youth had short fair hair and was wearing light coloured trousers and hooded jacket, while the other had short dark hair and was wearing a black t-shirt and jeans.

The girl had brown hair tied in a ponytail. She was wearing a black headband and dark green trousers and jacket. The photograph has now be handed over to the police.

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