A COLD-hearted conman stole turkeys that were destined for a hospice’s Christmas dinner.
The thief tricked staff at a Boldon butchers into handing over the five turkeys – priced at between £50 and £75 each.
A man claiming to work for St Oswald’s Hospice in Newcastle arrived at the shop to pick them up, after calling to arrange a collection time.
Shop workers uncovered the ruse when a genuine worker from the 14-bed hospice in Gosforth arrived to collect the birds.
The turkeys, in a box marked for the hospice, were supposed to the centre-piece in a lavish Christmas dinner for terminally ill patients, families and staff.
Paul Clark, who runs George H Pickings in Front Street, East Boldon, was sent the birds by turkey company Corpus, which has donated turkeys to them for three years.
The 46-year-old butcher was so upset by the theft that he handed over four turkey crowns and some chipolatas to replace the missing meat.
He said: “To steal something that was for a hospice is pretty bad. I don’t know how this person could have known, because I did not know they were coming.
“It is all family that work here, so they get their own turkeys.
“It is the third year we have dealt with Corpus and the second year they have given us turkeys for St Oswald’s.
“It is not the money, it is the fact that these people in the hospice were not going to get Christmas dinner, or they would have had to take money out of their own pocket.
“I hold my hands up, because I lost them - we will just have to try and be a bit more careful next year. You live and you learn.”
He added: “I hope they choke on it. If it had been a genuine mistake, surely this far down the line, someone would have realised.”
Butcher Stephen Auton, 25, from Town End Farm, served the conman.
He said: “He was a middle-aged man, well-dressed, with grey spiky hair. I would definitely recognise him again.”
Anita Bell, fundraising manager for St Oswald’s, said: “It is terrible when things like this happen. It was really kind for Paul to pay out of his own pocket.
“Our patients - and family who will be there with them - will really appreciate that.”