Romford rugby club devastated as thieves steal profits from fireworks night

�Romford’s biggest fireworks display in years turned from triumph to disaster when thieves stole �12,000 in takings.

The money from last Friday’s spectacular display, organised by Romford and Gidea Park Rugby Football Club, in Crow Lane, was destined to be pumped into its youth teams, with some also going to a Queen’s Hospital children’s charity.

But calculating crooks made off with a safe containing �12,500 – just hours before organisers for the charity planned to bank the cash.

Treasurer Bill Dowton said a “substantial” amount from the night, the biggest display in the borough in twenty years, had already been banked and some was insured. He also confirmed the club had recouped its costs, but refused to go into more detail.

Huge blow

He thought it was “a reasonable idea” that the thieves had planned the robbery knowing cash would be on the premises from the weekend.

“We are a charity, and self-financing, which is why we put on this night,” said Bill. “It’s a huge blow but we will keep going and we will come out of this stronger. Important lessons have been learned.”

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CCTV footage shows four masked and gloved crooks clambering through a hole in the clubhouse roof, said Bill, before escaping through a door with the safe, between 1.30am and 2.30am on Monday. He vowed to give a percentage of the remaining money to the Queen’s charity.

The luckless club nearly lost its events’ licence after thousands of revellers unexpectedly descended on the grounds during last year’s bonfire celebrations, clogging surrounding streets. The club was forced to cancel a summer concert featuring Jools Holland while Havering Council’s licensing committee pondered its fate.

This year the display, which attracted more than 4,000 people, was declared a success.

Club chairman Steve Mersh said: “This year’s event went really well. It was well organised and we had lots of people coming out to support us and to have lots of fun.

“We gave all the neighbours tickets for this year’s event to make up for what happened the last time, we definitely learned from our mistakes.”

The night saw a 25 minute fireworks display, which ended with two of the biggest rockets available in the country.

There was also entertainment from a Kylie Minogue Tribute act and a DJ and a live band, fun fair and food stalls.

Anyone with information on the theft should contact Havering Police on: 101