Poppy Appeal thief turned in by his wife
A thief who stole hundreds of pounds from the Royal British Legion was rumbled by his wife who suspected him of pilfering funds.
Derek Russell had been the Poppy Appeal organiser for Ashford from 2014 up to November last year, a role which saw him hit the streets and knock on people’s doors to raise money to help exservicemen and their families.
But while he appeared to be a trustworthy member of the Ashford branch, he was secretly taking cash while other members of staff went to make tea or use the telephone.
The 53-year-old from Clover Court in Willesborough was caught after his wife saw wads of cash in his wallet, leading to his arrest and theft charge.
Russell, who has recently b e c o me u n e mp l o y e d , appeared at Folkestone Magistrates’ Court last week where he pleaded guilty to stealing £605 from the coffers of the charity.
Prosecutor Neil Sweeney said Russell’s wife suspected him after seeing wads of cash in his wallet, which was used to buy expensive fireworks and a new Microsoft mobile phone from the Carphone Warehouse, despite his meagre income from Job Seekers Allowance.
Mr Sweeney said: “He was responsible for collecting money in tins and buckets and for the banking of the money.
“His wife noted a large amount of cash in his wallet and questioned him about it. He said it was from a Territorial Army pension.
“A month later she saw him purchase two children’s dolls and prams and once again saw a number of bank notes in his wallet. She suspected it was from the Poppy Appeal.
“When Russell was pressed by his wife he then said ‘well, they get plenty’. She told the president of the Ashford branch Peter Bishop, who checked the books.
“In the ledgers there was a discrepancy for the amount which had been collected and the amount which was paid into the bank account.”
Police charged father-ofthree Russell on November 18, and asked if his wife, who was the branch secretary, was involved, but he said she wasn’t.
When asked how he would steal the money with so many other volunteers and branch members present he told them he took the cash when they went on tea breaks or took a telephone call.
Judge Justin Barron told Russell: “This offence is inexplicable. You are a man of 53 with no previous convictions. It’s an obvious breach of public trust.”
He also warned Russell that all punishment options would be considered, including a possible prison sentence, pending a probation report into his character.
Russell will return to court to be sentenced later this month.
What do you think? Write to Kentish Express, 34-36 North Street, Ashford, TN24 8JR or email kentishexpress@ thekmgroup.co.uk Derek Russell who has admitted stealing cash
from the Ashford Royal British Legion