Police now believe a man captured on CCTV stealing a charity box collecting money for Devizes Opportunity Centre may be responsible for up to six charity box thefts across Wiltshire.
The brazen theft of the box, which has caused outrage among the charity’s supporters, happened on Wednesday last week from the Black Swan Hotel, Market Place, Devizes.
The pub’s security cameras show the man standing at the bar with a glass of lager. He looks around to check no staff are around, before taking what appears to be scissors out of his pocket and cuts the string that attached the charity box to a pump on the bar.
Soon afterwards a member of staff walks behind the bar and the man carries on drinking while at times looking over his shoulder.
Then, when the coast is clear, he picks up the charity box and puts it under his jacket, finishes up his drink and leaves.
As he leaves he puts his hand on another charity box on the bar but that is chained and he walks out of the hotel.
Police believe the man may have struck in other pubs in Wiltshire.
The Tavern in Melksham and The Farmhouse at Southwick also have CCTV footage of the thief and it appears to show the same man.
He is also thought to have struck other pubs including the Three Horseshoes at Burbage and the Barleycorn in Marlborough.
Charlotte Wright, assistant manager at the Black Swan, said the suspect had been in the hotel a few times previously.
She said: “He must have come in here with the intention of stealing the charity box as he had scissors in his pocket and used them to cut the string off the box.
“Stealing a children’s charity box is disgusting. We have a few other charity boxes, including Wiltshire Air Ambulance, on the bar which we keep chained up.”
The charity box was put in the Black Swan about three months ago by taxi firm boss Dave Malloy who responded to the Gazette’s Give Us a Chance appeal to raise money for Devizes Opportunity Centre.
The centre, which looks after babies and youngsters up to the age of five with learning difficulties and health problems, had its funding cut by £10,000.
He has put several charity boxes for the Opportunity Centre in various pubs in the town and recently presented £800 to the centre from events he helped to organise at the Dolphin pub.
Mr Malloy said: “A charity box can hold up to £150. The landlady of the Black Swan was very upset. I just can’t understand how someone could do this. The person who stole it is a waste of oxygen. The staff at the Opportunity Centre do wonderful work.”
Donna Harris, deputy manager of Devizes Opportunity Centre, said: “It’s really sad that someone has pilfered the collection tin off the bar.
"It’s a sad state of affairs. Hopefully someone will recognise this man and he can be caught.”
Footage of the suspect at the Black Swan, Devizes, has been posted on Facebook: