A GRIEF-stricken teenager has suffered further heartache after a callous thief stole her birthday money while she was out shopping.
Kayleigh Waller had put her purse containing £200 next to an Argos catalogue she was flicking through in Middleton Grange Shopping Centre, Hartlepool, when an eagle-eyed thief struck.
It was a cruel blow for the 16-year-old as she tries to cope with the tragic loss of her dad, Darren Waller, who was missing for five months before his decomposed body was found at the rear of a community centre.
Her mum, Lisa Gleaves, labelled the theft as “disgusting” and said it is another blow for Kayleigh who has had a traumatic year dealing with the tragic death of her dad.
Lisa told the Mail: “The person who did this must have been waiting for a chance to do it. It’s disgusting.
“To pinch off a bairn as well, who would do that? Her face is well known in the town as well because of what happened with Darren so it’s just mindless.
“This is just another blow for her as she tries to get on with her life.”
Kayleigh, who is sister to Ellie, eight, and five-year-old Leah, was thrown into the media spotlight when her dad, who lived in Alma Street, Hartlepool, went missing on January 9.
The brave teenager featured in numerous appeals that culminated in her travelling to London to appear on BBC’s Missing 2011 national TV programme.
But her efforts were in vain and on May 18 her dad’s body was found by a dog walker in long grass on Hartlepool’s Central Estate.
An inquest into Darren’s death found he had fallen asleep in a field on the Central Estate amid freezing January weather and never woke up.
A verdict of accidental death was recorded by Hartlepool Coroner Malcolm Donnelly.
Kayleigh, who had to go through her GCSE exams while the search for her dad was ongoing, had been out shopping at 3pm on Saturday when she popped into Argos with a friend.
Lisa, who was divorced from Darren, added: “The shop said where she was wasn’t covered by CCTV.
“She’s gone in and put her purse on the side, but then went to pick it up and it was gone. It was that quick.
“It was £140 which was her birthday money that she’d been given to spend early before her birthday next week and money she has saved up from babysitting. There was also £60 and a cash card she was looking after for her friend.
“As if she hasn’t been through enough already. She was really upset and went straight to the police station.
“It’s one of those things where you never think it will happen to you. I hope people can learn from what has happened and it doesn’t happen to anyone else.”
Anyone with information about the theft is asked to contact Hartlepool Police on (01642) 302110 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.