Cruellest thief this Christmas: 2,000 worth of presents for seriously ill children stolen
from Great Ormond StreetGifts were meant for children too ill to go home for ChristmasAbout 20 wrapped items were taken between Friday and Monday from a cupboard in a part of the hospital not open to the public
Great Ormond Street Hospital and the police are appealing for information
03:16 GMT, 19 December 2012
Police last night said they would mount a nationwide hunt for the ‘despicable’ thief who stole Christmas presents from desperately ill children at Great Ormond Street Hospital.
The 20 gifts, worth 2,000 and bought with donations from well-wishers, were destined for patients on the intensive respiratory care ward.
There are fears the thief may be someone who works at the world-famous Central London hospital because the gifts were in a room secured with a key-code lock.
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Employees from London recruitment company Oyster Partnership deliver Christmas presents to Great Ormond Street children's hospital, where thieves have stolen Christmas presents intended for children in intensive care
Around 20 gifts were all wrapped up and ready for children in the intensive care unit too ill to go home for Christmas. These well wishers last night delivered replacement presents
Investigators are scouring hundreds of hours of CCTV footage to identify the culprit.
A source said: ‘The thieves took two large bags. They even took the small bags which the presents were to be given to the children in.’
The items included portable DVD players, Nintendo DS games and DVDs.
England assistant Coach Ray Lewington and England Manager Roy Hodgson were pictured having a chat with Rebecca Mawbey, 13, from Watford during a visit to Great Ormond Street Hospital yesterday
England Coach Gary Newille, England assistant Coach Ray Lewington and England Manager Roy Hodgson speaking to Kevshi Shah, aged 10 from Ilford, at Great Ormond Street Hospital
A specialist nurse tends to a new born baby at night in an intensive care unit at Great Ormond Street. The presents were stolen from a cupboard in a private part of the hospital
England Manager Roy Hodgson and Coach Gary Neville sign a shirt for the nurses at Great Ormond Street Hospital
Just hours after news broke of the callous theft, they were replaced by some of the many celebrities who support the hospital.
Stunned detectives suspect the gifts may have already been sold for as little as a few hundred pounds to buy drugs.
Det Chief Insp Les Newman said he and his colleagues were ‘utterly disgusted’. Mr Newman, whose son visits the hospital every year for tests for a kidney problem, said some of the intended recipients may not see another Christmas.
‘This is a despicable crime committed by heartless individuals,’ he said.
‘I urge the thief to think about their actions and do the decent thing and return them.
‘I would like to think they had a heart, especially around this time of year.
The main reception at Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children, central London. Police are scouring CCTV footage for clues to the heartless thieves' identity
Employees from London crewing company Pinnacle deliver Christmas presents to the children's hospital
Crewing company Pinnacle were among many companies to offer help in replacing the stolen presents
‘For some of these kids, it could be their last Christmas. Anyone with kids will feel for this crime and if they have got a suspicion, I suspect they will contact us.
‘There is no honour among thieves and I think we are going to get a phone call telling us who it is.
‘Frankly, I am willing to launch a national manhunt to catch the person responsible. If it means putting their face on lorries and driving them around London, that is what we will do.’
Mr Newman has told his team of 12 officers, who specialise in thefts, robberies and burglaries, that the crime is their ‘No 1 priority’.
Police believe the thief was caught on camera but face a substantial task because the presents went missing during a three-day window before the discovery on Monday afternoon.
Well-wishers flooded the hospital with offers of cash and replacement gifts as news of the theft spread. Staff said they had been ‘overwhelmed’ with generous offers, with one adding: ‘There are some bad people out there but there are a lot more good ones.’
Heartbreaking: The presents, which were bought by the hospital's charity and were meant for children in intensive care, were stolen over the weekend
One nurse who has worked at the hospital for two years said: ‘It’s despicable. We could hardly believe it when we heard. Even if the thief didn’t realise the presents were for the children, they were clearly Christmas presents.
‘It must either have been someone who didn’t understand the significance of Christmas, or someone who just didn’t care. It’s heartless beyond belief.’
Lord Sugar, a long-time supporter, said he would foot the bill for more presents.
Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York, also donated gifts, while Celtic FC, Currys, PC World and Blockbuster offered to replace the DVD players and games consoles that were stolen.
Relatives of patients said the theft was the ‘lowest of the low’.
Det Chief Insp Les Newman speaks about the Great Ormond Street Hospital Christmas present robbery
Jessica Barnard, 29, told how her three-year-old daughter Rosie, who suffers from cerebral palsy, spent her first Christmas in hospital.
She said: ‘The staff really make an effort and the children have pillow cases of toys on Christmas morning. It’s so good what they do and to think someone could do this, it’s disgusting.’
Pamela Clark, 71, added: ‘My granddaughter has been in and out the hospital for eight years so she’s spent many Christmases here. To take the kiddies’ presents, you can’t get much lower than that.’
Met Commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe branded the theft ‘disgusting’.
He said: ‘You can’t imagine anything worse in a way – children who are very ill and at Christmas.
‘Somebody’s taken the time to buy them something to cheer them up and somebody’s stolen them. It’s pretty awful.’
Revered care: The work of Great Ormond Street Hospital was honoured during the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games
A hospital spokesman said: ‘We can confirm there has been a theft and are fully co-operating with the police. We have been overwhelmed by generous offers from individuals and companies to replace the missing items.
‘These items have now been replaced by a long-term supporter. Thank you to everyone who has contacted us for their concern and kindness.’
Great Ormond Street Hospital was set up in 1852 and is celebrating its 160th anniversary. It treats 300,000 children every year, including many with rare and life-threatening illnesses.
Its work was honoured during Danny Boyle’s Opening Ceremony at the London Olympics.
Anyone with information is asked to call 101 and ask for the CID office at Holborn. If you wish to remain anonymous then please call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111
VIDEO: Police desperate to find stolen presents before Christmas
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