A RUTHLESS thief snatched £100 from a charity shop till last week leaving volunteers in shock.

The unidentified man, aged mid to late 20s, prised open the till at the Samaritans store on Curtis Street before grabbing the money and riding off on his bike on Monday, November 6.

Staff were distracted helping customers when the thief, who spoke with a local accent, emptied the till during the stealthy operation.

The raid came just three days before a vending machine and tip box were taken from the Kidz About indoor play centre in Mead Way by two men who are believed to have fled on bicycles.

Volunteer Maggie Gill, who works at the Swindon store, said: “Staff were distracted by other customers – it was quite a busy Monday.

“This is obviously good for the shop but there was more money in the till than normal.

“I think they took advantage of the fact that everyone was busy.

“I understand it was a lad on a bike – he came into the shop and had a look round then wandered off again.

“I think he was probably watching and when the volunteers were watching customers he opened the till then rode off on his bike.”

In a statement, the store said the theft was a ‘tremendous blow’ given that the shop provides the majority of funding to the charity, which gives emotional support to those in crisis.

The store has also had to buy a new till after it was broken when the thief forced it open.

“It is so sad that someone would do that – we feel for the person,” said Maggie.

“We have got great customers and people who donate goods but it is so sad when something like this happens.

“We don’t want shop volunteers to feel vulnerable or anything like that.”

Darren Tee, director of Swindon and District Samaritans, said: “We rely on the shop to keep us running and to train our volunteers to be there for so many people that need someone to talk to – it is so disappointing that someone should be in a situation where they feel the need to take from the Samaritans.

“I hope that any person in such a situation knows that there is always someone to talk to”.

Wiltshire Police said in a statement: “We are investigating following a report of theft at the Samaritans store in Curtis Street, Swindon.

“Between 9am and 10.30am, it is believed a man entered the store and stole approximately £100 from the till.

“The man is described as white, approximately 5 feet 9 inches tall and spoke with a local accent.

“He was slim, unshaved, aged mid to late 20s and wearing a dark waterproof shell top.”

Anyone with information should call police on 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.