Christmas toys due for sick kids stolen from hospital
Donations of Christmas toys set to be given to sick children have been stolen from a hospital in the UK.
Around £3,000 worth of gifts, LED candles, wrapping paper and a santa suit were taken from St Mary's Hospital in Praed Street, London, sometime between October 3 and November 17, police said.
The presents were due to be given out to children hospitalised over Christmas and at a Christmas party organised by Children of St Mary's Intensive Care (Cosmic) - and the electronic candles used at their carols by candlelight concert.
Vicky Rees, who is head of fundraising at the charity which began in 1994, said around 150 toy donations were taken, leaving staff and volunteers "very upset".
"You get that horrible feeling in your stomach - you've got lots of events coming up that you want to put on for the children and it was devastating when we saw it," she said of the theft.
"The toys and gifts make a big difference."
The charity is now looking for donations so that its toy and equipment stocks can be replenished in time for the festive bash on December 11 and the carol concert on December 5.
"We have set up a fundraising page just because we haven't got enough storage - it is out of play - so we are asking people ideally to donate to the page and then we can buy the gifts directly," she said.
"It helps us because we have children with a range of complex needs. We have to match every gift up to every child."
Cosmic also helps to fund vital state-of-the-art equipment, and provides emotional and practical support for families, research into life-threatening disease, and accommodation so parents can be close to their critically ill child.
Children who end up at the hospital are usually in a critical condition with life-threatening illnesses such as meningitis, sepsis or severe accident trauma, the charity said.
Ms Rees said "nothing like this has ever happened before", and that the theft has prompted local businesses, hospital staff and the community to offer as much help and support as possible.
"Although it is very upsetting for this to happen, actually the support has been absolutely amazing," she said.
Officers are appealing for information about the incident which was reported to them on November 22.
Detective Sergeant Tom Hirst, from Westminster CID, said: "This is an awful crime at this time of year and hard to imagine what kind of person would steal gifts so clearly destined for sick children to make their lives a little brighter this festive season.
"We are appealing for any witnesses or anyone with information to please contact us as soon as possible."
Anyone who can help should call police in Westminster via 101 or give information anonymously by contacting Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 or at crimestoppers-uk.org.
:: To make a donation to Cosmic visit http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/fund/COSMICCharity_Christmas_Appeal