CALLOUS thieves have broken into Colne Market and stolen charity collection boxes for the Poppy Appeal and Help for Heroes.

The burglars broke into the market hall, in Market Street, in the early hours of Saturday, gaining entry through a window at the back.

Traders said it is believed they made a makeshift ladder out of building materials left in an adjacent building.

The thieves ransacked several stalls, stealing laptops, mobile phones, and several charity boxes, police said.

“Picture Painter Man” Shaun Wright, 50, an artist who has a stall on the market, had several charity boxes stolen from his stall, as well as two laptops and a mobile phone.

Shuan had worked with other traders to create a commemorative wall in the market, for people to share memories from the Great War.

Vistors to the market have been leaving pictures on the wall, and making donations to a Poppy Appeal tin, which was secured to Shaun’s stall, to mark the centenary of the First World War.

Thieves stole the Poppy Appeal tin, which contained several hundred pounds, as well as a Help for Heroes tin, and a laptop, which was used to project images as part of an exhibition about the War.

Shaun said: “They’re scumbags, I hope they get what they deserve.

“They ought to be sent to the frontline in Afghanistan, instead of to prison.

“We are starting a secure collection again, and any donations would be most welcome.”

Waterside ward councillor Tony Greaves said: “Clearly people will be upset by this.

“I hope the police make a special effort to find out who did it, and arrest them.”

Pendle’s Mayor, and ward councillor Graham Roach said: “I think people who do this sort of thing have no idea what the money is used for.

“I think it’s despicable that people can take money put aside for charities for people who need it more than anybody else.

“I am appalled.”

Insp Bob Eaton of Lancashire police said officers were now investigating.

He said: “Scene of crime officers have been, and the thefts are being investigated.

“Anyone with information should call Police on 101.”