RESIDENTS in Burnley Wood have issued a defiant message to a mean thief who nearly ruined a community centre’s Christmas party and presents.

As reported in the Lancashire Telegraph, burglar Andrew Woodrup walked off with with more than £300 earmarked for gifts and partyware after breaking into Burnley Wood Community Centre, in Springfield Road, more than a fortnight ago.

But neighbours have rallied around to ensure that the “scumbag was not allowed to ruin festivities for estate youngsters, who will be enjoying a disco next Friday and then a yuletide bash 24 hours later.

Volunteer Karen Heseltine was left in tears when she she arrived at the former Terracefields building to find two cash tins and a charity box had been taken.

Within days though Burnley Wood residents had put the smile back on her face after flooding the centre with toys, selection boxes and other Christmas treats.

Karen said: “We have loads of residents coming in with donations.

“At the time we were thinking that maybe we might have to cancel the Christmas party.

“But there was no way that we were going to let this scumbag ruin Christmas for the children who come here.

“The whole of Burnley Wood has come together and rallied around.”

Woodrup, who has a lengthy criminal record, is now starting a 26-week jail sentence – despite professing to be “deeply ashamed” of his actions and offering to repay the missing money.

Karen added: “Even if he has got six months it wouldn’t have been enough for what he did and I’m sure it won’t be forgotten about for a long while.”

Woodrup was caught out after local police studied CCTV footage of the raid and he also left footprints at the scene which were linked to the intruder.

Jailing him, magistrates chairman Stephen Riley told the defendant that his actions had caused “significant harm”.

Mark Williams, defending, said Woodrup had been released from prison with a methadone prescription, which he had lost, and had lapsed back into the drugs culture.

Campaigners at the centre, which runs a popular luncheon club each day and hosts its own internet cafe and regular children’s activities, are also working with St James Street based sandwich bar Munch to provide some extra festive cheer.

Centre volunteers and the shop are putting together ten Christmas hampers.