THIEVES who snatched cash collected in the name of a five-year-old killed by cancer have been branded “dirty scumbags” by her furious family.
Washington schoolgirl Zara Fort died in March after a two-year battle against a rare form of the disease which caused a tumour to grow on her spine and saw her go through gruelling rounds of chemotherapy.
She had enjoyed several breaks at Haggerston Castle holiday park in Northumberland as she recuperated after treatment, leading mum Julie Klein and a committee of friends to launch Princess Zara’s Getaway to raise £120,000 to buy a lodge for others being treated at Newcastle’s Royal Victoria Infirmary.
But they have been left furious after a collection tin was stolen from the counter of her nanna’s cafe, Jan’s Place, in Sulgrave, during a busy day of business.
A cash reward has been put up in the hope information will lead to an arrest.
Julie, 36, also mum to Terri-Leigh Spencelayh, 17, Brett Spencelayh, 15, and Kati-Lea Casey, 10, was told of the theft by her mother after she realised the tin had gone as she cleaned up for the night.
Julie, of Blackfell, said: “I was devastated.
“I just want to know who has taken it and who would stoop so low.
“It’s not just that it’s been taken from a charity – it’s a five-year-old’s name on there, and she lost her battle against cancer.
“If they had a conscience, they wouldn’t have taken it.
“When she was having high-dose chemo, we would take Zara up to Haggerston for the weekend.
“She was a totally different kid there, and it was a massive break for her.
“When we got the news in December, that was when we set this up in her name.
“I knew it was just a case of time, and we knew that was it.
“We want to get a lodge for others to experience what we had.”
Grandmother Jan Klein, 53, of Coach Road, moved into the unit in Waterloo Road recently after running a burger van, Jan’s Snacks, in the car park of Homebase in the town for 17 years. The tin held nine weeks of donations. Previous collections have raised up to £190.
Jan, now having CCTV fitted at the cafe, added: “They’re dirty scumbags.
“If anyone knows who it was, come forward.
“They’ve stolen this from bairns.”
Supporters of the fund have already raised £5,000 through donations, bag packs and the sale of Christmas items and calendars.
Around 30 people will also take part in the Boxing Day dip being held at Seaburn.
Anyone with information about Thursday’s theft is asked to contact police on 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.