AN ANNUAL Christmas toy appeal suffered a heartbreaking setback when a supermarket trolley laden with Christmas gifts for poor and needy children was stolen from the town's Asda store.
Accrington Lions, who run the appeal, believe heartless thieves or young pranksters were responsible.
The trolley was put in the superstore's entrance hall to encourage kind-hearted customers to give generously to the cause.
People visiting the store often pick up a gift on their weekly shopping trip and drop it into the trolley on the way out.
Appeal organiser Peter Hopwood said: "The trolley had only been there a week and it looked really good as it was all done up nicely with Christmas signs telling people about our appeal.
"We couldn't believe it when we found it had gone. We were really annoyed, especially as this was an appeal for children.
"We searched high and low for the trolley but couldn't find it anywhere.
"I don't think an ordinary customer would just walk off with it by mistake. If thieves were responsible they are the lowest of the low, spoiling Christmas for underprivileged kids.
"It may have been youngsters as you just don't know what goes on nowadays."
But Mr Hopwood added that the Lions had vowed not to let the incident ruin the appeal.
And the Observer, which has always backed the appeal, has urged readers to help make up for the loss.
Editor Mervyn Kay said: "This is a really good cause and we urge our readers to support it. Don't let the thieves win."
As well as the Asda trolley, new and nearly-new toys and games can be handed in at Sue's Shoe Repairs at 12 Little Blackburn Road, Accrington, or people can ring 383926 to arrange collection.
Last year the Lions supplied toys to 150 children who would otherwise have got nothing.