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

The box containing cash destined for a mum who is battling Multiple Sclerosis, went missing from La Stazione, an Italian cafe in the centre of the town.

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.

Mr Tolch, a 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 railway 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 last week because a woman came into the cafe to put up a poster and put money into the charity box.

On Wednesday at about 10am another woman 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 Mr Crane. "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."

A spokesman for West Yorkshire Police urged anyone with information about the theft to call the police non-emergency number 101.