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Thieves ruin Poppy Appeal cash record

PUBLISHED: 16:54 09 December 2009 | UPDATED: 11:18 23 August 2010

A RECORD £40,000 was collected in the borough for this year s Poppy Appeal - despite SEVEN collection boxes in the town being stolen. The news comes as the 100th soldier to be killed in Afghanistan this year died on Monday, making it the bloodiest year s

A RECORD £40,000 was collected in the borough for this year's Poppy Appeal - despite SEVEN collection boxes in the town being stolen.

The news comes as the 100th soldier to be killed in Afghanistan this year died on Monday, making it the bloodiest year since the Falklands in 1982.

It is also a fortnight after a 16-year-old was sentenced to 24 hours training at a youth offender centre after admitting stealing two poppy appeal collection boxes in Longfield.

But the amount raised was marred by the thefts in Gravesend town centre, up from just one last year.

Ian Dunkley, formerly of the Merchant Navy and Royal Navy Reserves, led the service at Windmill Hill Memorial on Remembrance Sunday.

He said: "It's very sad and pretty disgraceful. I feel sick about it to be honest.

"There is an element of people out there who will steal anything no matter what it represents. You have to question what state of mind they are in, maybe addicted to drugs or alcohol and desperation kicks in."

Colin Gould, 66, local honorary organiser for Gravesend, said about 300 boxes were placed in businesses, schools, churches and pubs in the borough.

He said: "This year has been great for collections, raising about £5,000 on top of the previous year

"It's such a terrible shame that some think it is acceptable to steal from such a worthy cause.

"They deserve our support and I'm glad the vast majority of people in Gravesham understand this.

"Maybe the recession has something to do with the rise in thefts. We only had one stolen last year so it is a great concern but we are delighted to beat the record."

Thefts of Poppy Appeal boxes from November 1 to November 11 were reported at HSBC, Natwest, Wilkinson's in the Thamesgate Centre, The Tile Shop, The Cycle Shop, The Pembroke and Darnley Pharmacy.

Collections including those at Morrison's supermarket, manned by volunteers from the Merchant Navy Association, helped swell the amount to £40, 279, 33. The record breaking figure was finalised this week after all boxes were returned to the charity.

Mr Gould, who has never served in the armed forces, added: "I know it's not the publicity we would like but leading up to the appeal this year there was a rise in deaths in Afghanistan that has bought the situation to the front of people's minds, especially those five massacred in one day. This can also be seen by the rise in people attending the Remembrance services."

"The support this year has been phenomenal."

Mr Dunkley said it was 'tremendous news' about the record fundraising effort by the RBL and increased crowds at Remembrance services.

He added: "It's more in people's minds. Results clearly show the public are supporting our servicemen whatever their political view and that's fantastic news."

Police confirmed they were investigating two reported incidents at Wilkinson's on Saturday October 31 and Darnley Pharmacy, Pelham Road on Monday November 2.

Detective Inspector Ian Dampier, from North Kent's area crime unit, said: "Inquiries into both thefts are underway and I would ask anyone with information to get in touch.

"Crimes such as this are taken seriously and we will do all we can to find and then prosecute the person responsible."

Call police on 01474 366091 with information.

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