‘Selfish’ thief leaves fundraisers devastated

FUNDRAISERS were left “devastated” after a knitted display raising money in memory of an Emersons Green girl was stolen from the top of a postbox.

The celebration of characters from Raymond Briggs’ classic Christmas tale The Snowman, fixed to the box outside Downend Post Office, was created by members of the Knit and Natter group based at nearby shop Fabrics Plus.

A QR code and web link attached to the display was being used to raise money and awareness for children’s charity Raeyah’s Hands of Support, set up in honour of a girl who died aged four from a rare form of cancer.

But less than two weeks after it was fixed to the postbox in Downend Road with heavy-duty cable ties, the entire display was prised from the top and stolen, in the early hours of December 17.

The topper was designed by Suzzie Belcher, who with her fellow knitters spent countless hours creating it.

Suzzie said: “We were all very upset that somebody stole our Snowman topper, for various reasons but most importantly because we were fundraising for a local charity, knowing the story about Raeyah.

“Also to deprive the children in our area from the joy of seeing the figures when they came to the village shops was very unkind.

“One gentleman told me that every day he walked his grandchild to visit the Snowman, Snowdog & James.

“This was the first time that one of the Downend letterbox toppers has been stolen, and we found that very sad for our community.

“How could anyone do such a thing?”

The group created a substitute decoration of a sad snowman, to take the place of the stolen topper – Suzzie said it “reflected our feelings”.

She said the group would carry on making the toppers for the community.

Raeyah’s Hands of Support was set up by the family of Emersons Green girl Raeyah Evans-Rice, who was just four years old when she died in March last year from a rare form of cancer.

While she was undergoing treatment, Raeyah’s parents Becky Evans and Kevin Rice decided to set up a service to help other parents in a similar position.

The charity provides practical and financial support for families with children undergoing cancer treatment at Bristol Children’s Hospital, especially those with an autism diagnosis.

It offers food vouchers, entertainment bags with things for children to do, bags with seasonal treats, and overnight bags for parents whose children have to make an unexpected stay in hospital.

Becky and her mum Pat, who lives in Downend, joined the Knit and Natter group members at the unveiling of the postbox topper in December.

Becky said: “We felt sorry for the group that put so much time into making it and supporting Raeyah’s charity.

“The people that removed it clearly have no idea how difficult it is to bring childhood cancer to the forefront of people’s minds, and how difficult it is for any family who have had a child go through treatment.

“It’s heartbreaking to think that someone gave no thought to any of the children we help, despite our own heartache, and we are disappointed that someone like that lives in the area I grew up in and where our daughter’s grandparents live.”

Robin Honeywill, of Fabrics Plus, said: “We are devastated by the loss, not only for our wonderful Knit and Natter ladies, who crafted for many weeks to create this masterpiece, but also for the family of Raeyah, and for the Downend community, who were so generous in their support.

“Christmas is a joyous time for all, especially the children, and to be robbed of this feeling is just selfish.”

The theft was reported to Avon & Somerset police, who have been studying CCTV to try to identify a suspect.

Police have asked anyone with information about the theft to call them on 101 and quote the crime reference number 5223 311 679.

To find out more about the charity visit its website, Raeyahshandsofsupport.org.uk.