A HEARTLESS thief walked into a funeral directors and stole money donated in memory of cancer victims and bereaved relatives.
The criminal appears to have been caught on CCTV swiping the annual Christmas memorial tree collection tin from Rowland Brothers in Central Parade.
The collection box in the reception area contained about £85 at the time of the theft – two days after Christmas.
It was destined for the local Brenda Kirby Cancer Centre and two other charities.
Funeral arranger Angelia Jordan said: "It is the lowest of the low. They gave the money in memory of lost loved ones, and that makes it even worse."
Ms Jordan was inside the shop helping a family arrange a funeral when the theft happened, after a young man entered the premises and used a bizarre tactic to distract her.
She said: "I was with a family doing the funeral arrangements, and this young guy came in.
"I am not going to lock the door while the family is in there.
"He came in and interrupted the family I was helping.
"He had a big wad of lottery slips in his hand, peeled one off, handed it to me and went back out again. I was not going to leave the family.
"He was waiting around, and then when I watched it on camera I saw he picked up a leaflet and folded it over and picked up the box and walked out."
Police are investigating the theft but no arrests have been made.
Ms Jordan said the man on CCTV was white with dark hair. He was wearing a light-coloured, checked hoodie, chinos and dark shoes.
She did not notice the box was missing until Friday (January 4) when she went to count the money and send it to head office for the company-wide collection.
Realising it was gone, she recalled the strange incident with the man and checked the CCTV.
As well as the Brenda Kirby Cancer Centre – set up in honour of the former New Addington councillor – the money was meant for the Woodside Bereavement Centre and Breakthrough Breast Cancer.
Ms Jordan added: "We have a little discreet box because not everyone can afford to give, and we do not expect people to give."
Mrs Kirby said she had heard about the crime but had not realised the culprit had interrupted a bereaved family.
She said: "Nobody is hugely well off around here but it is a really strong community and what they have they share. I just hope whoever took it was desperate, but nothing excuses interrupting a bereaved family.
"If anyone knows anything, tell us. Tell anybody. I am sure it will get through to the right people – they can do it anonymously if they want."
Call Croydon Police on 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.