Charity box snatched from the counter of an Ely store

POPPING into a shop for an ice cream led to two men snatching a yellow plastic cow-shaped charity box from the counter, magistrates heard this week.

Karl Hutchings was paying for his cold snack when he opened the door to allow Simon Clarke to reach in and grab the box.

Hutchings stayed cool as he paid for the ice cream while Clarke ran off - and the pair of thieves later shared out the �30 they found inside the charity box.

Both 33-year-old Hutchings, of Nene Road, Ely, and Simon Clarke, 36, of Meadow Close, Witchford, admitted theft when they appeared before city magistrates on Thursday.

The theft took place at the Labas store, an Eastern European provisions shop in Newnham Street, said prosecutor Laura Mardell.

“The store keeps a money box on the customers’ side of the counter, it was not marked as a charity box, but regular customers knew it was a charity box; periodically staff would select a charity and pass on the contents of the box,” she explained.”

When shop staff noticed the yellow box was missing, they watched CCTV and found footage of Hutchings and Clarke committing the theft.

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Solicitor Jacqui Baldwin pointed out that the yellow plastic cow shaped box had nothing on it to suggest its contents were for charity.

“Both my clients believed it was a tip box for staff,” she said. “But clearly they accept responsibility for stealing it. They were unaware that staff designated it for charity.

“They went into the store to buy an ice cream, seeing staff leave, they took the box. It was a joint enterprise, both were very frank and confirmed each had �15 when they shared out the proceeds.”

Hutchings was given a 12 month conditional discharge, and Clarke was given a 12-month supervision order. Both must pay �15 compensation and �85 costs.