Thieves snatched packed Poppy Scotland tins in a smash-and-grab raid just three days before communities across the north-east come together to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day.
They broke into the WH Smith store in the town’s Marischal Street on Wednesday night – apparently in search of high-value cigarettes.
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When they proved too difficult to secure, they instead turned their attention to the collecting tins.
They were full as the store had sold its entire supply of poppy pins, the money from which supports servicemen and veterans.
The tins themselves were smashed open as the criminals stole the contents – though they left an assortment of coins scattered around the store where they fell.
Police said they had arrested two men, aged 29 and 38, in connection with the robbery, which took place at around 11pm.
A Poppy Scotland spokesman said the charity had been “appalled” to hear of the break-in, describing the sums collected for the cause as “life-changing”.
On Wednesday, staff at the store were said to have been delighted by the success of their Poppy Scotland collection.
Yesterday, however, the shop atmosphere was less jolly as assistants swept the scattered remnants of a shattered glass door from the mat.
Robert Fraser, member of the committee for the Peterhead branch of the Royal British Legion, said the theft was “disappointing”.
He said: “I took the Poppy Scotland collection box down there myself, while my wife went past herself on Wednesday and saw they had sold out of their poppies.
“I went down today to offer them more only to find that someone had smashed through the bottom pane of glass in the door.
“I think they were after cigarettes but couldn’t get them so took the tins instead.
“The cords around the tins were pulled off and they must have knocked the tops off as there were some coins on the floor.
“This money is important as it is for the veterans and this is disappointing not only for them but also for the staff at WH Smith, as they’ve done their best to get donations.”
The amount of money stolen is understood to have been relatively modest, but a Poppy Scotland spokesman said: “We are appalled to hear two of our collecting tins have been stolen.
“Members of the Armed Forces community depend on Poppy Scotland’s vital, life-changing support but we can only continue to provide this as a result of generous donations from the public.
“Thankfully this is an extremely rare occurrence.
“We would urge anyone with information to contact Police Scotland immediately.”
Last night a police spokeswoman confirmed that investigations were moving swiftly.
She said: “Two men have been arrested following the alleged theft by housebreaking of two charity tins from the WH Smith at Marischal Street in Peterhead at around 11pm on Wednesday.
“The men are aged 29 and 38.”
As the incident is in the hands of the police, WH Smith were unable to provide a comment.