A brazen thief was captured on CCTV swiping a Poppy Appeal collection box from a restaurant before wandering off undetected.
The sickening moment was caught on camera by Mangetout Grill and Steakhouse restaurant in Southend, Essex, who released the footage to warn others.
The footage shows the brazen thief looking around to wait for the right moment to swipe the box which was unguarded in the foyer.
Two cameras show the hooded suspect wandering into the restaurant with an over the shoulder bag before he lifts up the box once and puts it back down.
He looks around and opens his blue bag then snatches the Royal British Legion tin just moments before two diners enter the foyer just on from the restaurant.
The male, who was wearing a black hooded coat with white trainers, strolls out of the restaurant undetected at about 7.45pm on Saturday (5/11) night.
Mickey Glenister, social media manager at the restaurant, slammed the theft and urged businesses to be on their guard.
The 32-year-old said: “It’s really sad to think somebody would do this, particularly for a charity which does so much good.
“We’ve released the footage to try and catch whoever is responsible for this, and to remind other businesses to be on their guard.
“We’ve heard this has happened to a few businesses, it’s horrible to think somebody would go so low and do this.”
The incident prompted a furious reaction on the restaurant’s Facebook page, with some questioning the security measures in place.
The video gained over 500 reactions and nearly 5,000 shares with hundreds commenting about who the culprit could be.
Commenting on the post, Kristöf Holméz said: “It beggars belief a charity box would be left unchained and out of the view of staff like this right on top of the entrance.
“In this day and age it should be chained as an absolute minimum.
“I know we shouldn’t have to but that’s just how it is I’m afraid. Prevention is better than cure.”
Dan Hutson said: “I hope the thief is caught and made to return the collection tin stolen and double the contents with their own money.”
Alan Manson, also commenting on the post, said he is optimistic that CCTV in the area will help police.
He said: “This is shocking that someone could blatantly walk in and steal from under everyone’s noses but worse still it disrespects the people who gave their lives for ours.
“I hope they catch them as there is plenty of CCTV around Southend for the police to trace them.”
The Poppy Appeal is the British Legion’s biggest annual charity collection in the run-up to Remembrance Day on Sunday 13, raising funds for the armed forces community.