CALLOUS thieves stole pre-Christmas charity collection bags from people’s doorsteps in an early-morning raid moments before workers came to fetch them.

CALLOUS thieves stole a charity's pre-Christmas collection bags from people's doorsteps...just moments before they were due to be picked up.

British Heart Foundation driver David Hale was picking up residents' clothing and bric-a-brac donations from Hartford's Birds Estate when he noticed thieves throwing the collection bags into an unmarked white Ford Transit van.

He challenged the group but they fled with 30 bags of donations – goods that had been destined for the charity's shop in Huntingdon High Street.

The 42-year-old, who has worked for the BHF for seven years, said: “It is not fair. We help to make a difference, and the more they take the less we get.

“The money we earn goes directly to helping patients. These people couldn't care less about what they are doing.”

Assistant shop manager Trish Shrapnell added: “It's unfair for people who think they are donating to the BHF. It is going to someone else and is purely going into their pocket.

“We are trying to raise money for people with heart disease and it is frustrating when others take from the charity.”

Mr Hale was in Kestrel Close at around 8.30am on November 10 when he noticed the bogus collectors.

It is not the first time he has had collection bags stolen from doorsteps and said he started his round early to thwart potential thieves.

But, he added, the thieves turn up “earlier and earlier”.

He said the crime was difficult to stop because many residents leave bags before they set off for work, but he urged people to be vigilant.

Collectors who don't carry BHF identification should be reported immediately, and people worried about getting their goods to BHF shops can arrange a collection or drop-off at a convenient time, he said.

BHF spokesman Gareth Julian added: “Stealing bags that have been left out for our charity is akin to robbing people with heart conditions of a better quality of life.”

INFORMATION: Anyone with information should contact Cambridgeshire Police on 0345 4564564 or call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111.