Doncaster charity box thief needed drugs cash

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A despicable thief who targeted charity collecting boxes in pubs and shops needed the coins because of her £30-a-day heroin habit, a Doncaster court heard.

Despite being caught after one stealing spree, Samantha Michelle Ardern flouted her police bail by taking even more charity boxes a few days later.

The 31-year-old, who had never been in trouble with the law until her secret drug habit was discovered, appeared in the dock at Doncaster Magistrates’ Court and admitted six offences of stealing charity boxes between April 17 and May 6.

She also pleaded guilty to a separate charge of drugs possession.

Ardern, of South View, Austerfield, was seen on CCTV stealing a charity box from Frankie and Benny’s on April 17 and two days later took two more within an hour from The Crown Hotel and the Tasting Note wine merchants in Bawtry.

David Sheppard, prosecuting, said police were able to identify her and arrest her. She said she took the money for food and electricity.

After being bailed she committed similar offences at The Cooper and Griffin pub in Bawtry, the Oxfam shop in Tickhill, and a fruit shop in Bawtry.

Charities that lost money included Bluebell Wood, the Syria Appeal, Breast Cancer Research, and William’s Wish to Walk.

Defence solicitor Jonathan Cowling said Ardern has had a drug problem for five years but when her mother found out she stopped giving her any money. “Unfortunately that led to the offending. She was a lady of good character until April.”

Magistrates imposed a community order with drug rehabilitation for nine months and supervision.

Katey Dent, sales director at The Crown Hotel, said: “We find this absolutely shocking that someone would steal money that was given by the goodness and kindness of customers. The Crown and our customers have supported Bluebell Wood for many years and this is very sad.”