THIS is Jackie Reed – the despicable Hartlepool thief who stole two poppy boxes containing cash for hero soldiers.
And despite having the gall to swipe the Poppy Day appeal money from the counter of a town leisure centre, the cowardly 31-year-old masked his face to hide from the Mail’s cameras as he left Hartlepool Magistrates’ Court.
The prolific criminal, who has 81 offences to his name, unbelievably went back to the counter twice - taking one of the collection tins at first and then returning to cruelly steal the second.
He claimed there was £8 in the tins which he spent on food.
Today, Hartlepool’s Poppy Appeal organiser Sian Cameron condemned Reed’s actions as “deplorable” and said: “I think it’s disrespectful, appalling and the lowest of the low really.
“It’s been the talking point of this whole poppy season and everybody I’ve spoken to has said how disgusting it is.”
She added: “And to come out of court hiding his face is just ridiculous.
“If he has it in him to steal poppy boxes he should be able to stand by his actions and show his face, and face up to what he’s done instead of trying to hide.”
And a spokeswoman for the Royal British Legion North East said the charity was “saddened”.
“This loss will deprive those in the Service and ex-Service community and their families of much needed assistance and support from the Legion,” she said.
And after the crook pleaded guilty to the theft in court, chairman of the bench of justices Keith Fisher told him: “Whatever moved you to take these charity boxes is beyond me, and you did exactly the same later.
“It was however bad, times two. That can only be pre-meditated. We only have your word that there was £8 in them and I have little option but to accept that.
“This money will have been given by people that probably couldn’t afford it and were giving it to a good cause. You have chosen to take it entirely for yourself.”
Prosecuting, Lilian Atkinson told the court: “The defendant went into Mill House Leisure Centre on October 27, leaned over the counter into an area staff are only allowed into, and he picked up a charity box and left.
“Moments later, he returned to the same area, selected a second charity box and again left the building.”
She added: “He told police he broke them open and said there was £8 which he spent on food.”
Mitigating, John Relton, who said it was “ironic” that his client had been treated in hospital for a chin wound by a military medic, apologised on behalf of Reed for his actions.
He said: “There’s little I can say to endear my client to the court at this period in time, other than to start by apologising for his actions.
“At the time he failed to appreciate the significance of what he was taking and has since reflected upon it and realises how wrong it was.”
Mr Relton added that his client, who has mental health problems, was short of funds and “saw this as the only option to feed himself”.
Mr Fisher adjourned sentencing until the probation service had carried out a pre-sentence report.
Reed, of Acclom Street, Dyke House, Hartlepool, was released on bail, with a condition that he must not enter Mill House Leisure Centre, until he returns to court on December 21.