A BRAVE 94-year-old has vowed the thief who stole £600 of her pension money will not stop her going to the shops.

Daisy Payne withdrew the cash from the pension money she had set aside to pay bills but was left heartbroken when she discovered it had all been taken.

She said she was “distraught” to discover the money missing during a weekly visit to shops in The Broadway, Whitehawk Road, Brighton.

But she has been heartened as kind business owners rallied round to collect donations to replace some of the money.

She turned her back on her shopping trolley for a matter of moments in the Co-op at around 3.30pm on April 6 and later found the money had gone.

The news comes as traders claimed shoplifting and theft on the row of shops was rife and had increased in the last few months.

Police confirmed there had been a rise on the number of reports in the area and they believe there is one culprit, who is being investigated.

Mrs Payne, of nearby Dorset Gardens, said: “I just couldn’t believe it. I felt sick when I realised all that money had gone. I had a good cry. I felt desperate, like everything was going wrong. I couldn’t eat or sleep. The purse was given to me by my sister-in-law so it had sentimental value too.”

Her faith was restored when she found out money had been raised to help cover some of the cash she lost and read messages of support from neighbours and businesses.

She said: “It was such a surprise, everyone has been so kind and thoughtful. I’m very grateful. It reminded me there are nice people out there. This episode won’t stop me from going out and shopping there.”

Her neighbour and friend Barbara Cox, 82, said: “Whitehawk has a bad name but it goes to show there are still kind people in the world.”

Hayley Hobdell, who runs gift shop Pack of Cards with her husband Paul, organised the collection for Mrs Payne.

The 40-year-old said: “We were so upset to hear what happened to Daisy. She is such a big part of the community. We all just wanted her to know we are thinking of her and watching out for her.

“Shoplifting is a big problem and we’re now hearing of things being stolen from people while they are in the shops. It’s rife at the moment.

“It’s making customers vulnerable and we don’t want that. It seems to have got worse in the last six months. There isn’t a bobby on the beat anymore, I think that would be beneficial.”

Police said they were working with businesses to prevent crime and been “developing a different approach” with the local business forum and Brighton and Hove Economic Partnership.

A spokesman said: “There has been an increase in the number of reported thefts from shops in this area last month, however most of them were at one store – the Co-op - and believed to have been committed by one suspect who is being investigated.”

No-one has been arrested yet.

Any witnesses or anyone with information about the theft of Mrs Payne’s purse should call police on 101 quoting 1210 of 06/04. To donate to the fund for Mrs Payne, visit Pack of Cards.

TRADERS LOOKING TO REDUCE CRIME AT SHOPPING PARADE

ONCE a week Daisy Payne packs up her trolley and walks from her home to her nearest parade of shops.

Her routine is quite typical, she goes to the Post Office to make a cash withdrawal and then visits most of the shops – the baker, the pharmacist, the gift shop – greeting the owners with a smile and a wave.

Many of them have got to know her well over the years and expect her weekly visit.

Then she crosses the road to the Co-op to pick up a few groceries.

On Thursday, April 6, her regular shopping trip was out of the ordinary for a number of reasons.

It was the first time in weeks she had braved stepping out of the house after a period of illness.

Feeling a little anxious at the prospect, she went with a friend.

She made a large withdrawal from the Post Office of £600 from her pension pot in order to pay bills – she was paying off a new cooker, heater and toaster because they had all broken at once.

She carefully put the money away in her red purse and fastened it securely in her chequered shopping trolley before heading to the Co-op.

And, most unusual and distressing of all, as she turned her back for a matter of seconds to help her friend reach to pick some groceries off a shelf a thief is believed to have reached into her bag, grabbed the purse full of the cash and made off with her money.

She did not notice until she left the shops as she paid at the till using other money she had carefully allocated for shopping in another purse.

Searching high and low when she got home she realised the money was gone, and the only time it was out of her sight was that briefest of moments when she turned her back.

“The awful thing is I think they must have been watching me draw it out, or knew I came from the Post Office. I shop here every week and nothing like this has ever happened before.

“I cried and cried when I realised it had been taken. I did not know what to do with myself.”

But when the community rallied round to try and repay some of the money she said she was “so touched” that she cried again and felt such warmth from everyone around her.

In the first week more than £80 had been raised by businesses and at least £50 had been donated by caring neighbours. The money was delivered in greetings cards with messages of support from her friends and traders. More money is still coming in.

Hayley Hobdell, who runs gift shop Pack of Cards with her husband Paul, organised the collection.

The 40-year-old said: “We were so upset to hear what happened to Daisy. Everyone knows her, she is such a big part of the community. There’s something about her, she is very special.

“It’s so touching to see so many people donating, money is still coming in. Almost every business along The Broadway has donated. We all just wanted her to know we are thinking of her and watching out for her. I was worried it would mean she would lose confidence and not want to come down here again and we really didn’t want her to feel like that.

“She’s a very independent lady but we wanted her to know we are all here for her.”

But she said Mrs Payne’s ordeal was not a one-off, claiming shoplifting and theft was “rife” in The Broadway and traders were desperately trying to put a stop to it.

She said: “Shoplifting is a big problem and we’re now hearing of things being stolen from people while they are in the shops. It’s rife at the moment.

“It’s making customers vulnerable and we don’t want that. I just think thank goodness Daisy wasn’t hurt. It seems to have got worse in the last six months. We have also been burgled so many times.

“We have a camera in the street now but there isn’t a bobby on the beat anymore. I think that would be beneficial. There isn’t as much of a police presence. I think people are getting desperate because of benefit cuts and maybe they are starting to target places closer to home. I think they no longer care about who they target.

“The good thing is all the businesses are trying to raise awareness and trying to support each other. It’s important to have community spirit. Otherwise you can begin to feel isolated and like nobody cares.”

SHOP CRIME IS 'RIFE', TRADERS SAY

MORE than 50 shoplifting offences were reported to police in the last year from a single street in Brighton – The Broadway in Whitehawk Road, Brighton. In the last four months there were four thefts were recorded from people while they were shopping on this street, according to police figures. 

Thefts from a shop reported to police in Whitehawk Road, Brighton:

2016 

April - 3 

June - 7 

July - 2 

August - 5 

September - 4 

October - 8 

November - 1 

2017 

February - 2 

March - 20 

April - 3 

Total: 55 recorded 

Theft from a person while they were in a shop in Whitehawk Road, Brighton:

Four records in the last year, all in the last few months between December and April.