THOUSANDS of pounds have been stolen from a church minister after thieves took the cash from her bag.

Reverend Lynda Hulcoop, minister at Southwick Christian Community Church in Roman Crescent, Southwick, had collected the £7,500 worth of US dollars stolen from the currency exchange booth at Sainsbury's store, in Old Shoreham Road, Hove.

Two female suspects have been caught on CCTV following Rev Hulcoop to to the exit and grabbing the bundles of banknotes from a bag she was carrying.

The minister flew out to Zimbabwe on the charity mission despite the theft.

The incident took place at around 4pm on Monday January 23.

Most of the cash had been raised via church sales and other events. It was going to support schools in the African republic, including a special school for disabled children, and the Paraclete Christian Network International, an evangelical group operating in Zimbabwe.

Rev Hulcoop said: "Many people had donated and worked very hard to raise these funds for educational support of children, for a special needs school, for the support of a disabled young man who had recently tragically lost his mother, for food and medical aid, for a youth music project and to support our maize seed project growing food.

"Zimbabwe rarely makes the headlines these days, but the situation there is dire.

"The economy and the banking system have basically collapsed.

"Normally our charity sends money by bank transfer but this option is no longer viable as the banks only allow people to withdraw US$100 per day involving many long hours of queuing. Thus we had to take cash.”

After returning from Africa, Rev Hulcoop said: "Having just spent the last two weeks living among these lovely but poverty-stricken people trapped in such dire circumstances and surviving on so little, I am left feeling even more deeply the horrible injustice of this incident.

"Greedy people preying on others for their own gain have stolen money meant for children and families in desperate need in a country on the verge of collapse.

"The whole community who gave so generously feels the offence very keenly.”

Detectives have obtained closed circuit television images of the suspects and have also contacted other bureaux de change concerning the theft.

Anyone who may have seen what happened, who recognises the women believed to have been involved or who may have other information is asked to contact Sussex Police using the online form at: or call 101, quoting serial 1054 of January 23.