Thieves have stolen more than £1,500 from an 84-year-old military hero who was selling poppies to raise money for veterans at a shopping centre.
Maurice Bastable was selling the Remembrance Day flowers outside a Marks & Spencer shop in Basingstoke on Saturday when he got distracted for a moment and turned around to discover two of his cash boxes had been taken.
The ex-Coldstream Guards serviceman, who has sold poppies for more than a decade, said he and fellow fundraisers are now forced to keep their cash boxes on a chain.
Telling his story from his home in Basingstoke, Hampshire, he told The Times: “I was very shaken up, as you can well imagine, but in an incident like this the police came around to see me in the evening for the first couple of days after the robbery and I’m okay now.
“We now have the four cash boxes on a chain. It certainly is sad that it’s come to this. I have never seen anything like this before, I’ve never been robbed before.
“I am an ex-Coldstream Guardsman but I was given a tunic by the regiment three years ago for the money I raised for the battalion.
“I’m down there three times a year, for Armed Forces [Day] in June for a week, for the Royal Air Force in September for a week, and for a fortnight every November, from half-past eight in the morning until six at night.
“We all know thieving goes on all over the country but it has never happened to me in the 12 years I’ve been collecting from the public.
“I think the two men and woman who robbed me are the scumbags of the earth — but then who are we to say?”
Maurice Bastable was selling Remembrance Day poppies in his full Coldstream Guards uniform when he was unwittingly approached by two men and a woman, they then stole £1,500 worth of donations inside. #news #coldstreamguard #remembranceday pic.twitter.com/vo9GOpgC4O
— The Military Times (@themilitarytime) November 2, 2018
Mr Bastable, whose grandfather won a commendation for service in the First World War, was selling poppies in Festival Place, Hampshire, at the weekend when the three thieves struck.
He continued: “It happened on Saturday evening. I had been there all day since half-past eight.
“At a 5:45 p.m. I started to pack up. Obviously, somebody distracted my attention deliberately and when I turned around, two of the cash boxes had disappeared.
“The shopping centre has 400 security cameras, so the police and security were very quickly on the spot and they did make an identification but they couldn’t get them straight away,” he said.
“On Sunday morning one of the same people stole a third collecting box off the actual stall which I was attending but they made a big mistake and were caught on the cameras again and were immediately arrested and then the police followed up and arrested two other people.
“They all turned out to be two men and a woman.”
A spokesman for the local police in Hampshire, confirmed two men aged 28 and 54 and a 24-year-old woman had been arrested on suspicion of theft following the alleged incident.
UK Police Proudly Display Poppy for Great War Centenary https://t.co/a4X3f2pptE
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) October 30, 2018