Shame of Poppy Appeal organiser who stole £600
A thief who pocketed hundreds of pounds from Ashford’s Poppy Appeal has been given a suspended prison sentence.
Derek Russell pleaded guilty to stealing £605 from the Royal British Legion, where he had been the appeal organiser from 2014 up to November last year.
But the 53-year-old, of Clover Court in South Willesborough, was rumbled after his wife Jacqueline suspected him of pilfering funds when she saw wads of cash in his wallet.
She questioned Russell about the money, and at first he told her it was from a Territorial Army pension, as he only had meagre earnings from Job Seekers Allowance.
He bought fireworks, a new mobile phone and dolls and prams for his young family with the cash, and when his wife accused him of stealing from the Poppy Appeal he told her “well, they get plenty”.
Mrs Russell was herself the former secretary of the Ashford branch, and she informed the branch president Peter Bishop, who checked the books and found cash missing.
In court it was revealed that in his role as Poppy Appeal organiser Russell was responsible for banking the cash, and would hit the streets and knock on doors to raise money along- side other volunteers.
But at the branch office in Church Road in the town centre he would wait until other volunteers and branch members went to make tea or use the telephone to steal bank notes.
He was charged by the police shortly after Remembrance Sunday commemorations in November last year and made his first court appearance on Wednesday, February 3.
Judge Justin Barron told him: “This offence is inexplicable. You are a man of 53 with no previous convictions.
“It’s an obvious breach of public trust.”
This week he was sentenced at Folkestone Magistrates’ Court, where he admitted he bitterly regretted what he had done.
He said he was ashamed and disgusted with himself for betraying the trust of the Royal British Legion. Mrs Russell admitted that she had found it difficult to alert the branch to her husband’s theft.
Russell was given a six-month prison sentence suspended for two years, and was ordered to complete 250 hours of community service.
He was also ordered to repay all the money to the British Legion. A man wanted for suspected drug and gun crime could be in Ashford.
The Metropolitan Police are appealing for help in tracing Daniel Brown, 24, who failed to answer bail.
Brown was due to attend Plumstead Police Station on Friday, January 22, and is currently wanted in connection with suspected drugs and firearms offences.
Police say he has links to Ashford, Thamesmead, Plumstead, Woolwich, in London, and Penzance, in Cornwall.
He is described as white, 5ft 8in tall, of slim build, with short brown hair.
Anyone who sees him is advised not to approach him but to call 999 immediately.
Anyone with information on his whereabouts is also advised to call 999 or police via the non-emergency line on 101. Alternatively, they can contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.
Derek Russell admitted stealing more than £605 from the Ashford Royal British Legion