Shame of Poppy Ap­peal or­gan­iser who stole £600

Kentish Express Ashford & District - - Tesco Smash - By Ai­dan Bar­low

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

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