Jail for thief who swiped poppy box as nation mourned war heroes

Liam Clegg
Liam Clegg
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The country’s most callous thief was in action whilst the rest of the nation commemorated the 100th anniversary of the end of World War One.

As tributes were paid to the people who lost their lives in conflict Liam Clegg was stealing a Poppy Appeal collection box from a Blackpool hotel.

Clegg, 28, of Pleasant Street Blackpool, grabbed the poppy tin from a hotel reception desk and told the receptionist: ”Oh by the way, I am taking this, sorry” before running off.

At Blackpool Magistrates Court yesterday, he pleaded guilty to the theft of the collection box which belonged to the Royal British Legion.

He was sentenced to 168 days jail and was ordered on his release to pay £40 compensation to the British Legion.

Presiding magistrate Susan Greenwood told him: "The deplorable action you undertook means imprisonment is the only option.”

Prosecutor Pam Smith said that Kirsty Calvert, a receptionist at Tiffany’s Hotel on Blackpool Promenade, said that Clegg came into the hotel at 5pm on Remembrance Day and asked for the time. He then declared he was stealing the poppy tin and fled.

The receptionist told police: "I am completely shocked. I cannot believe that someone would stoop that low to steal money from such a charitable cause.The tin had been there for almost a month and most of the poppies had been sold.”

Hotel guests were so shocked they donated £77 to replace the money Clegg had stolen, which was matched by the hotel, bringing the total to £154.

Police identified Clegg from the hotel CCTV.

He answered “no comment” to most of the police's questions.

Howard Green, defending, said his client had a history of problems and was on medication. He said: ”He went into the hotel looking for money. He did not realise the enormity of what he was doing. He behaved in a despicable way and is thoroughly ashamed.”

Clegg first hit the headlines when he was eight-years-old, when his beloved mountain bike was stolen from him by a gang of youths. However became a thief himself, racking up 140 burglaries in a year. He was dubbed Blackpool ‘s most prolific thief and revealed how he was 'tutored' into a life of crime by his own father who would use the youngster to climb through small windows.