Thieves who snatched two charity collection pots and an over-sized glass bottle full of change from a pub have been described as “the lowest of the low”.

Gwyneth Davies, landlady of The Barley Mow in Hartford, said the theft happened at lunchtime on Wednesday (May 27).

They were clearly labelled with the Woodlands Cancer Centre at Hinchingbrooke Hospital, which is raising money for its new centre, and children's cancer charity Clic Sargent. The bottle was half-filled with donations but with no label.

“I've been here eight, nearly nine years and we've never had anything like this. I think it was opportunist - where we had them sitting, you could see them from outside.

“The bottle was half full, so it would have been heavy. We had a wander to see if it had been emptied and dumped but didn't find anything.

“I think it's the lowest of the low to steal from charity, especially when one was Clic Sargent and the other was Woodlands.”

For a number of years, the pub has supported the fundraising efforts of Hartford resident Luke Claxton, who raises funds for cancer charities in memory of his mum, Veronica, who died in 2008.

Luke, who with family and friends has raised more than £100,000 for good causes, said: “It's such a shame to hear about stories like this, I try not to get too angry about it as it could take the gloss off all the great work that is being done locally.

“If somebody wants to sit at home knowing they have stolen money destined to help children with cancer then we will let their conscience deal with that. It certainly won't stop our efforts. If anything it makes me more determined.”

Gwyneth said regulars had rallied around and responded magnificently. “We have an American who comes in every week for the quiz and he donated a replacement bottle which he had had for 35 years.

“And the team that won the quiz on Thursday donated their winnings straight back to charity.

“It's nice that people do care and it makes you feel a bit better about things.”

Extra measures are to be taken to ensure the charity collection boxes are more difficult to take, Gwyneth added.

Police spokesman Neil Franklin said: “We would appeal for anyone with information to contact police on 101. All theft is serious but it is despicable when the money is destined for charities.”