A Moray community has saved Christmas after callous thieves stole charity money destined to bring comfort to lonely pensioners.
Thieves raided the Brander Arms in Lossiemouth last weekend, stealing cash set aside to make up food parcels.
But since the collection was stolen, bar staff have been overwhelmed with donations.
And thanks to the community’s generosity, staff have been able to prepare twice as many food parcels as they had expected.
Last night Lynn Mitchell, who owns the bar, said she had been “devastated” and “angry” when she discovered thieves had struck – but refused to let them win.
“I couldn’t believe anyone would do such a thing,” she said. “The community was just devastated by it – it’s the sort of place that everyone knows everyone.
“Our customers were just knocked sideways that somebody would come in and take the money.
“I’ve been here for 20 years now and it’s the first-time we’ve been broken into but the response since has just been phenomenal.”
Tips to reward staff for their service through the year, money from tills, spirits and cigarettes were also taken by the intruders, who stuffed their loot into a red bag before fleeing.
Generous customers had been dropping change into the fundraising bottle for Lossiemouth pensioners for weeks leading up to Christmas.
And as soon as word got out about the theft, donations started pouring in to ensure those due to receive a parcel would not go without.
Customers donated cash given to them for Christmas and birthdays, with contributions even being sent from Glasgow by former locals.
Mrs Mitchell and her husband Alan were able to deliver 42 packages to residents after originally expecting to make up about 20 before the raid.
The couple have been kept busy packaging the festive gifts and ensuring they arrived in time for the big day.
Each hamper contains tea and coffee, sweets, puddings, tinned fruit and a £5 voucher to spend in a local butcher.
Mrs Mitchell said: “It’s just been amazing. One guy had his birthday last week and donated all the cash from his cards to make up the hampers.
“We really wanted to do something for the people in Lossiemouth this year because there are so many pensioners on their own at Christmas.
“It’s been amazing to see so many people get in touch, even old regulars that have moved away. It just shows how strong the community is.”
Police are now appealing for anyone who saw anything suspicious in the early hours of Saturday to contact them.
The break-in happened between 1am and 7.30am.
Constable Roy Cook said: “I would appeal to anyone who saw anything suspicious throughout the night in question to contact police as soon as possible.
“It is believed the suspect used a large red holdall to carry the stolen items from the premises so I would appeal to anyone who thinks they saw a person carrying such a bag to let us know.”
Anyone with information should call 101 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.