Ukrainian cafe owner has war collection box stolen by a man in Stratford - can you help police find suspect?

Ukrainian cafe owner Lana Zoubata said: “The guy came in and pretended like he was a customer. While another customer was served, he quickly grabbed the box and fled out of the cafe.”

A Ukrainian cafe owner raising money for the war effort had a collection box stolen by a man pretending to be a customer.

Lana Zoubata, 55, runs the Sawmill Cafe in Stratford, said the box contained around £100.

Police have now released a picture of a man sought in connection with the theft of money being collected for Ukraine, which occurred on March 3 around midday.

Police in Newham are appealing for help identifying a man sought in connection with the theft of money being collected for Ukraine. Credit: Metropolitan Police / SWNS

Ms Zoubata said: “While I wasn’t there, I was told the guy came in and pretended like he was a customer.

“While another customer was served, he quickly grabbed the box and fled out of the cafe.

“It was very quick no one realised what was happening.

“There were three men in the shop who didn’t even realise a theft had happened.

“I was told he jumped over a fence and was driven away in a car by a girl who held the door open for him.

“A customer told me, the girl said, ‘why did you get this money this is a donation?’”

The Sawmill Cafe, Newham. Credit: Google

Ms Zoubata, whose 78-year-old mother is still in Ukraine and is unable to cross the border to flee due to ill health, said she believes the theft is more likely to do with drugs.

She added: “We have seen problems in the area recently, with dealing.

“Especially considering what the girl said, I don’t think it was against Ukraine.

“The money was still taken.

“It’s not easy for this to have happened. People are really trying to help with all their hearts.

“We have noticed a lot of solidarity from our neighbours and our customers. What they did, it was not a human thing to do.”

She confirmed the Sawmill Cafe is again raising money for donations to Ukraine.

A Metropolitan Police spokesperson said: “Police in Newham are appealing for help identifying a man sought in connection with the theft of money being collected for Ukraine.

“Shortly after midday on Thursday, March 3, a collection box was taken from the Sawmill café in West Ham Lane, Stratford. The box is thought to have contained around £100.

“The male suspect ran away from the location, chased by a member of staff, and was driven away in a car.

“Officers are releasing an image of a man sought. This man was seen by witnesses to place an object in a car, and was photographed as he ran around to the other side of the car.

“Enquiries are ongoing in respect of this vehicle.

“If you know who he is please call 101 and quote reference 4698/05mar.”

A message from the editor: