THIEVES have smashed Christmas decorations and stolen a charity box from a garden in Weymouth.

Community nurse Toots Zollo has been raising money for Julia’s House by putting out a collection box in her front garden for the last two Christmases.

But her one-woman fundraising drive has suffered a setback this year after thieves made off with the collection box and damaged the festive display.

Mrs Zollo, 61, of Chafeys Avenue, said friends, family and neighbours look forward to seeing her Christmas decorations go up each year and had suggested putting out a collection box for a local charity.

She said: “It sounded like a good idea, so I chose Julia’s House because it’s a good, local charity.

“I put the box out this year as usual with a plaque saying that all donations would go to Julia’s House. My husband and I went out for a meal with friends between about 7pm and 10pm and when we came back someone had smashed the box off the wall and taken it.

“I was gutted.

“We live in an absolutely fantastic area with lots of lovely friends and neighbours, so I’m quite disappointed that something like this has happened.”

Mrs Zollo added: “Luckily, we empty it every day so there was nothing in it but I’m thinking it might be better now for people to put their donations through the door from now on, which is a shame.”

Mrs Zollo raised £120 for Julia’s House last year through donations left in the charity box.

Community fundraiser for Julia’s House, Di Pestell, reacted with shock after learning of the theft.

She said: “Julia’s House relies heavily on the support of the local community and we are really grateful to Mrs Zollo for her continued efforts.

“We can’t believe that someone would steal the collection box left out by Mrs Zollo, who is trying her best to raise money for ‘life-limited’ children across Dorset, particularly at this time of year.”

Sgt Tony Smith of Weymouth police confirmed that the box was stolen between 7pm and 10pm on Thursday. He urged people not to leave charity collection boxes in their front gardens The spokesman said an officer from Weymouth’s Safer Neighbourhoods Team is investigating the crime and that anyone with information about it should contact the police on 01305 222222 or call Crimestoppers.