POLICE are hunting a burglar who stole a British Legion poppy tin from the Durham Light Infantry Museum.
The thief smashed a window and stole the tin from the café area of the museum about 11.15pm on Thursday. It is not known how much money was taken.
A scene-of-crime officer has visited the museum and detectives are working with staff to find out whether the CCTV system has caught anything of use.
Sgt Bridget Orton, of Durham Constabulary, said: “This was a particularly heartless crime, especially on the eve of Remembrance Sunday.
“It just goes to show that criminals have no regard for common decency and will even steal money raised for a charity or other good cause.”
Museum manager Gillian Robinson added: “We are obviously very saddened by the break-in and what is a very thoughtless crime.
“Although we don’t know how much money was in the collection box, people always give very generously to the Poppy Appeal. It is extremely disappointing that these donations will not now reach the veterans who have given so much for others.”
Mike Donne, secretary and vice-chairman of the Durham and Framwellgate Moor branch of the Royal British Legion, said : “Obviously, we put tins into shops and other locations at our own risk, but it its not very often that a poppy tin is stolen.”
The fact that tins were taken so rarely was proof of the respect most people had for the Poppy Appeal and the work of the Royal British Legion, said Mr Donne.
He added: “I think the vast majority of people understand what it is about but there is a small number of people who do not understand why the Royal British Legion has the Poppy Appeal and the fact that we spend £1.7million a week on welfare for service personnel, ex-service personnel and their families.
“If I met the person who has done this, I would try to explain to them what it is about and the reasons that we do it, that people have died and continue to die for the safety and security of this country.”
Millions of people will come to a standstill at 11am tomorrow, with Sunderland staging the biggest Remembrance service outside London.
Anyone with information on the DLI theft can contact police on 101 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.