THE theft of a four-figure sum of cash which had been raised at an event in Crossgates in aid of a cancer charity has left organisers "heart broken".

Claire Winter, 44, has incurable breast cancer and had hoped to celebrate her life at a 'Not Dead Yet' party at the British Legion last weekend but – despite enjoying her evening with friends and family – has been left devastated after she says a full bucket of money was taken at the end of the night.

"My husband was physically sick when we found out," she said.

"My heart is aching – I can't get my head around it that someone would do that, not just to me, but to the charity.

"We've all just cried and have been so heartbroken, it's like someone has ripped your heart out."

Claire, who grew up in Rosyth, was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2019, with a secondary diagnosis in November 2020, but has since welcomed her first grandson and married her now-husband, Craig.

She had organised the event to raise money for breast cancer awareness charity Coppafeel! as an alternative to a birthday party, marking two years since she was told that her cancer was incurable.

The family had believed originally that the money was safe – there were two pink pails in which donations were collected – and they had picked up the one they thought had been filled at the end of the night.

On returning home, Claire says they discovered that they had taken the empty container, though planned to retrieve the correct one, which she thinks included between £2,000 and £3,000, from the venue where they expected it had been kept safe.

They were left in disbelief when it was found to be missing, though photos up until the end of the night at 12am showed it sitting where they had left it.

"We just assumed we would walk in and find it or one of the staff would have stored it," she explained.

"I couldn't have asked for a better night – everyone was so sorry that it's happened, that someone would stoop so low.

"They've stolen from me but they've also stolen from the charity I have worked so hard for."

Claire now says that she has been put off fundraising again, saying that the experience has "terrified" her as well as her daughter, Rachel Ferguson, who helped with the organisation.

"There was so much time and effort put in, every day for the last six months has revolved around it," she said.

"There have been sleepless nights worrying there were no problems, I don't think I could do one again.

"It was supposed to be a combined celebration of my life and the two years since my diagnosis – it's sick.

"Everyone there knew what it was for, they were all friends and families, I don't think it was someone who attended."

The former school administrator, who worked in primary schools in West Fife for 27 years, has made a plea for the person who took the money to return it, anonymously.

"As soon as we found out, I wrote a note on social media saying they could hand it back and nothing would happen," she added.

"I am still hoping someone will hand it in, but I think we have to resolve the fact it's been done.

"I think we have to come to terms with it that it's gone."

Claire will still be able to give the £2,869 she raised through her JustGiving appeal before the party to the charity.

Police have appealed for further information about the theft, which happened on Saturday, November 19.

Sergeant John Nicol, from Cowdenbeath Police Station, said: “We’re appealing for anyone with information on this theft, or if you believe you saw anyone acting in a suspicious manner in the Main Street area, to please come forward.

“You can call police on 101, quoting incident 2199 of 21 November. Alternatively, please contact Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111, if you wish to remain anonymous.”