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Last Updated:  Saturday, 29 March, 2003, 12:09 GMT
Floral tributes to soldier stolen
Corporal Stephen Allbutt
Corporal Allbutt served with the Queen's Royal Lancers
The widow of a soldier killed by "friendly fire" in Iraq has condemned thieves who stole floral tributes and cans of beer left in his honour outside her home.

Corporal Stephen Allbutt, 35, was died during the battle for Basra on Tuesday.

Around 20 bouquets of flowers and four cans of beer which were laid outside his family home in Leek Road, were stolen on Friday evening and police are now investigating.

In a statement issued by police, Debi Allbutt expressed disbelief at the theft.

It's so upsetting. It's like an insult
Debi Allbutt
"I am just absolutely disgusted that someone could do this. Haven't we already got enough to cope with?" the mother-of-two said.

"Perhaps they took them to sell on for a couple of pounds for Mother's Day.

"Stephen's best mate had left a four-pack of beer with a personal message, which had meant so much to me and to him, but they were taken too.

"It's so upsetting. It's like an insult. They'd been left out of respect for my husband. How could they be so disrespectful?

"It has broken my heart."

The 37-year-old thanked the people of Stoke-on-Trent for their kindness in laying flowers outside her home.

Information reward

"I want to thank everyone for their support and thoughts. I hadn't even had a chance to read the cars that were on the flowers that were taken, so I have absolutely no idea who they were from."

Staffordshire Police said the theft occurred at about 1845 GMT after a black, F-registered Ford Escort pulled up 50 yards away from Mrs Allbutt's home.

A police spokesman said: "The car was being driven by a white woman with long blonde hair. She stayed in the vehicle.

"The passenger, a white man, got out of the car and walked towards the house.

"He gathered up several bouquets - possibly as many as 20 - as well as four cans of beer and then got back into the car, which quickly drove off."

The Stoke-on-Trent branch of Stephen's unit, The Queen's Royal Lancers, has now put up reward for information.

Chairman of the Old Comrades, Donald McLean, said: "For someone to stoop so low to steal floral tributes, especially from outside his house, is just out of this world. I am putting 250 up personally for it and probably some of the other lads will do the same."

Anyone with information about the theft is asked to contact officers on 01785 257717 or call the confidential Crimestoppers hotline on 0800 555 111.


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