Thieves rob Chichester Christmas lights charity box

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A couple from Chichester have said they will no longer be putting up festive lights outside their house for charity after vandals smashed up their collection box.

Ken and Val Strudwick have been transforming the outside of their home in Pound Farm Road into a twinkly and tasteful grotto of delights for more than 15 years and have raised thousands of pounds for charities such as the Sussex Snowdrop Trust, Save the Children, Dreams Come True, Macmillan and Breast Cancer Care, but on Sunday night thieves smashed the collection box which Mr Strudwick attached to the gate.

Luckily, the couple had already emptied £90 from the box last Friday so there was only a few pounds inside. The vandals removed the gate from its hinges and carried it further along the road where they smashed open the box. In their haste, the vandals left £2.50 scattered across the pavement.

Two years ago a figure of Baby Jesus was taken from the couple’s outdoor nativity set. After it was featured in the Observer a local artist came forward to make another for free, and since then the nativity has had a see-through screen in front of it for protection.

“That is the only real problem we have had,” said Mr Strudwick. “Apart from that, we’ve just had a couple of minor incidents. They are just stupid these people, I really feel sorry for them.”

Mr Strudwick said he had started doing the lights for the sheer pleasure of it.

“It’s just something that grew really,” he said. “We started just after we moved to the house. In a shop I saw a set of outdoor lights and I thought that’s interesting, I’ll put them round the door.

“Sometimes we have 50 plugs and we have 50 sets of lights, but don’t ask me how many bulbs we have.

“We got it started off for our own pleasure and then realised lots of other people got pleasure from it which was nice. People then said why don’t you put a box out and after two or three years we found something suitable to bolt to the gate.

“The main thing was for the enjoyment of other people and ourselves. People love watching the lights and children love looking at the little Father Christmas in the window. The kids love putting pennies into the collecting box. Most of it is small change I have quite enjoyed counting it up, bagging it and taking it to the bank – it all goes to charity and that’s why it is so annoying when this happens.”

Mr Strudwick said he did not know exactly how much had been raised as he and his wife had not kept a record, but each festive season people donated around £200 to £300.

They are now urging anyone who still wants to donate, to donate straight to Snowdrop which was their chosen charity for this year.