As hundreds gathered at Peterborough’s War Memorial to pay tribute to the nation’s heroes, a short walk away a career criminal was sent to prison for stealing from the veterans who had risked their lives for his future.
Approximately 30 minutes before the country fell silent on Armistice Day to mark the end of fighting during the First World War, Robert Marvell was sentenced to six months at Her Majesty’s pleasure for stealing a poppy tin in a crime labelled “as low as it gets.”
Those words uttered by District Judge Ken Sheraton echoed those used by prosecutor Anthea Harris to describe Monday evening’s theft from the Great Northern Hotel.
Judge Sheraton gave Marvell the harshest punishment at his disposal and told him it was only his guilty plea which had stopped him from sending the matter to crown court, which has greater sentencing powers.
Describing Marvell as a “hopeless case”, he stated: “I wish my powers were greater, to be frank. If I had the ability to throw away the key I would.
“Whatever problems you’ve got you’re saying are more important than the injured and killed troops of this country.”
Marvell was captured on CCTV stealing the box from the hotel’s reception desk, but his face was instantly recognisable to police who arrested him a few hours after being alerted to the theft.
It is unknown how much money was in the poppy tin but last year the hotel had raised £36.85. So including a £5 charge for the cost of the box, Marvell, of no fixed abode, was ordered to pay £41.85 in compensation on top of a surcharge of £80, court charge of £180 and £171 for three other crimes he asked to be taken into consideration.
Andy Cave, defending Marvell, said he had a lot of respect for the Poppy Appeal but that his drug addiction had gone out of control. He added: “He is remorseful and when he comes out of custody it will hopefully be a fresh start.”
Shaun Rollinson, general manager of Great Northern Hotel, based by Peterborough Station, said the hotel would donate £50 to the Poppy Appeal run by the Royal British Legion (RBL) and that he would tie down the money box next year to prevent a repeat occurrence.
Poppy Appeal organiser and RBL welfare worker Catherine Bennett, who has been in a truck in Bridge Street eight hours a day during the appeal, stressed that money raised provides service personnel with assistance such as mobility scooters, stairlifts and financial help.
She said: “These people who put their lives on the line for our country, we are trying to help them. And you get senseless people taking that money.”