PEOPLE who had their money stolen from a Christmas thrift fund set up by the Royal Oak in Shrewton say they have been overwhelmed by the support they have received so far.
More than £13,000 has been raised through a PayPal account at shrewton.com, with donations coming in from as far afield as Germany.
About 60 families, including young children, paid money into the scheme each week and they were due to get their money back this week.
But the estimated £29,000 has disappeared and the pub landlord Malcolm Levesconte, 59, has not been seen since Sunday.
Shrewton Parish Council held an emergency meeting yesterday afternoon to discuss how to raise £29,000 by Christmas Eve and how they can help those affected.
Paul Elston, of Blue Dog IT Services Ltd, held a gathering at his home in Tanners Lane, Shrewton, this morning with volunteers and victims of the theft coming forward to lend their support.
Lee Acton, 27, put £2,400 into the scheme to buy presents for his family and two daughters Lydia, nine, and four-year-old Amelia.
“Being self employed the money would have been used to cover my expenses over the Christmas period so I come out without bills,” he said. “I’m shocked, really shocked but this website is absolutely brilliant. I feel sorry for the other people as well so I want to do as much as I can to raise some money for everyone else.”
Di Trowbridge, 37, is helping out because her mother, sister and niece lost about £800 in the scheme.
She said: “This just goes to show what our village is all about. Everyone is coming together and helping us out. I can’t believe how many people have donated.”
Mr Elston said: “We have had a great response with donations coming in from all over the place and lots of lovely messages.”
It is also believed some people saved money in the scheme to cover their oil and rent costs and Phyllis Dayes, who coordinates the Good Neighbour scheme for older residents in the area, is concerned people will not be able to afford to keep warm.
Ms Dayes, who points people in the right direction to get help, said: “It is a huge amount of money so I am anxious and I’m hoping people will get in touch.”
Donations can be made at shrewton.com and there are also collection buckets in shops and businesses in Shrewton.
Ms Dayes can be contacted on 07557 922024 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Anyone with information about the whereabouts of Mr Levesconte, who is known to have boarded a ferry from Portsmouth to St Malo in France on Sunday evening, is asked to contact police on 101 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.
• A number of events will be raising money for the appeal including: a silver band concert at St Mary’s Church, Shrewton, on December 20 from 7.30pm, a Christmas evening at Rollestone Manor on December 21 from 6.30pm, and a fundraising event at The George in Shrewton on December 22.
* Last night (Friday) The Plume of Feathers pub in Shrewton collected more than £400 in cash for the appeal.