A THIEF cut through metal chains to steal a charity collection box from an ice cream parlour, right under the nose of the woman it would help.

The tin, containing about £200 of public donations, was stolen from George and Danver on St Aldate’s between 6.30pm and 8pm on Tuesday night.

Emma Owen, 22, who works at G&D’s to help fund her studies, has been collecting sponsorship to climb Mount Kilimanjaro for Childreach International this August.

She had been collecting since Easter and had just six days left to raise funds.

Miss Owen, of Knapp Close, Abingdon, said: “It is absolutely ridiculous. I was in tears last night.

“I started work at 6.30pm, but then the managers went downstairs to the stock room because a pigeon was stuck in the chimney, so I was left on my own behind the counter.

“The box was there when I started, but the queue was out the door so I just got my head down.

“When the managers came back up one of them said to me, ‘where’s your collection tin?’”

Miss Owen, who is studying Anthropology and International Relations at the University of Sussex, said she had secured the box to a water fountain next to her counter, using metal chains and two padlocks.

What made the situation even more frustrating was that a regular customer, Trevor, who always sits next to the water fountain, had also gone down to the stock room to help the managers free the bird.

Miss Owen said: “One of my managers joked, ‘the thief must have trained that pigeon’.”

Thames Valley Police are now trying to get hold of the shop’s CCTV footage.

Miss Owen is planning to climb Kilimanjaro with a team from her university during a visit to a Childreach project in Tanzania.