A CHARITY box containing hundreds of pounds has been stolen from the counter of a popular Ilkley cafe.

The box containing cash destined for a local mum who is battling MS, went missing on Tuesday or Wednesday last week from La Stazione, a bustling, friendly Italian cafe in the heart of Ilkley.

The crime has left staff and customers disgusted and now one regular Stuart Tolch, has offered a reward to anyone who can provide information which will lead to the conviction of the person who carried out the despicable crime.

The 40-year-old chartered surveyor, of Ilkley, said: "The box was on the counter. It wasn't fixed down because you don't expect that sort of thing to happen here.

"But some idiot has come along on Tuesday or Wednesday and taken it. I would now like to offer a reward leading to the conviction of this idiot. It contained several hundred pounds which was going to a local woman with acute MS who is in a terrible way.

"This money was going to help her and her young son and husband.

"I am a regular customer and like all the regulars we wanted to some something, however small to make her life a little bit easier. All the money goes towards her care. The charity box is something that has been working really well and we are all disgusted it has gone missing."

The cafe, which is directly outside Ilkley Train Station, has large windows and people regularly ask to put posters up. Instead of charging for the service, the cafe asks for contributions to the charity box.

La Stazione manager Max Crane, who has reported the theft to the police said he knew the box was still there on Tuesday because a lady came into the cafe to put up a poster and put money into the charity box.

On Wednesday at around 10am another lady came in and wanted to put £5 in the charity box and it was then staff noticed the box was missing.

"I was just in shock," said Max. "I could not believe it - I felt disgust and anger. There must have been up to £300 in there. Stealing is one thing but stealing a charity box is just an awful thing to do. She is such a nice lady and I can't imagine it would have been any of our regulars.

" It is not a light box either - it must have gone in a split second and unfortunately no one saw anything."

Max said it didn't surprise him that Stuart had offered a reward. "He is a fantastic guy and a real friend - for him to do this is just typical Stuart," he added.

If anyone has any information about the theft they can call in at La Stazione at 10 Station Rd, Ilkley LS29 8HF, or call the cafe on 01943 605877. The cafe is open from 6am to 5pm.

A spokesman for West Yorkshire Police confirmed they were aware of the crime and asked anyone with information can call the police non-emergency number 101.