Ex-soldier Martin puts up cash to trap poppy fund thief

A £100 reward has been offered by a former soldier after he heard that money had gone missing from a poppy collection on St Helena.

But Martin Sutcliffe’s initiative has stirred up another mystery – which he hinted at in a letter to island media:

“This is a truly despicable crime,” he wrote. “However, I am at a loss as to why this has not appeared in the recent police report.”

It is now understood that this was not because of any failure to act on the part of St Helena Police.

Questions are now being asked about what happened once the apparent theft had been discovered – and what didn’t.

The affair is all the more baffling to Martin because of his own long experience as a police officer in the UK and on Ascension Island.

He spent 25 years with Lincolnshire Police after serving with the First Battalion the Duke of Wellington’s Regiment from 1978 to 1987.

He went through three tours of Northern Ireland at the height of the Troubles there. “It was a horrible time – horrible. But not as bad as what the young guys and girls are going through in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

He decided to settle in Upper Jamestown in mid-2013 after escorting a prisoner from Ascension on the RMS St Helena, and staying on – initially – for a brief holiday.

He learned in late October that money had been stolen from the poppy collection in aid for former military personnel and their families.

“I was in the Consulate having a cup of tea and I overheard someone say the poppy money had gone missing from the hospital,” he said.

“They took the container, slit the top and then took the money out of the container.

“They do the press release for the police on the Tuesday, and nothing appeared. So I left it for a while and then this Tuesday there was no mention of the fact that this money had gone missing.

“So I wrote a letter and offered a reward.”

He said he was not confident the thief would be stirred to repay the money before the Remembrance Sunday ceremony at the Cenotaph on Jamestown seafront, on 10 November 2013.

“It’s my first one on St Helena,” he said. “Last year I was in full uniform on Ascension and this time I will be there in my pin-stripe suit and my medals and regimental tie.

“And I will be proud to be part of this event that honours those people who had paid the ultimate sacrifice.”

The government’s Chief Secretary, Owen O’Sullivan, will attend the Remembrance Sunday ceremony in place of His Excellency the Governor, Mark Capes, who has departed the island for Cape Town and Tristan da Cunha. Mr Capes will meet potential investors in Cape Town before voyaging to St Helena’s sister island, where he will unveil a plaque marking the 50th anniversary of the islanders’ return home after the island was evacuated in 1961, following the famous volcanic eruption.

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