Thieves stole over £1,500 from an 84-year-old veteran who was selling poppies at a shopping centre on Saturday.
Maurice Bastable was selling the Remembrance Day flowers outside a Marks & Spencer shop in Basingstoke when he got distracted for a second and turned around to discover that two of his cash boxes had been stolen.
The ex-Coldstream Guards serviceman, who has sold poppies for 12 years, said the sellers now have to keep their cash boxes on a chain.
Speaking at his home in Basingstoke, he said: I was very shaken up, as you can well imagine, but in an incident like this the police came around to see me in the evening for the first couple of days after the robbery and Im okay now.
We now have the four cash boxes on a chain. It certainly is sad that its come to this. I have never seen anything like this before, Ive never been robbed before.
I am an ex-Coldstream Guardsman but I was given a tunic by the regiment three years ago for the money I raised for the battalion.
Mr Bastable sells poppies at the shopping centre four weeks a year, for armed forces in June, for the Royal Air Force in September and every November for Remembrance Day, from 8.30am to 6pm.
He continued: We all know thieving goes on all over the country but it has never happened to me in the 12 years Ive been collecting from the public. I think the two men and woman who robbed me are the scumbags of the earth – but then who are we to say?
News of the robbery went on Facebook and the response from the public has been absolutely tremendous.
A lady sent me a cheque yesterday for £200. The response from the people of Basingstoke since this has been fantastic, theyve been throwing money at us.
In a way, its a weird twist of fate but what they did has weve probably doubled our money even though we lost £1,500 out of the three boxes that they stole. We didnt get that money back, they had probably already spent it on drugs.
Mr Bastable, whose grandfather won a commendation for service in World War I, was selling poppies in Festival Place, Hampshire, at the weekend when the three thieves struck.
He said: It happened on Saturday evening. I had been there all day since half past eight. At a 5.45pm I started to pack up. Obviously somebody distracted my attention deliberately and when I turned around, two of the cash boxes had disappeared.
The shopping centre has 400 security cameras, so the police and security were very quickly on the spot and they did make an identification but they couldnt get them straight away.
More: Remembrance Day
On Sunday morning one of the same people stole a third collecting box off the actual stall which I was attending but they made a big mistake and were caught on the cameras again and were immediately arrested and then the police followed up and arrested two other people. They all turned out to be two men and a woman.
A spokesman for Hampshire Police confirmed that two men aged 28 and 54 and a 24-year-old woman had been arrested on suspicion of theft following the Festival Place incident.
They were all released pending further investigation.
The owners of Festival Place shopping centre made a donation to the Royal British Legion to help cover the cost of the £1,500 theft from Maurice.