Thieves take cash raised in memory of Saltford river tragedy teenager Aaron Burgess
Thieves have stolen money raised in memory of popular teenager Aaron Burgess who drowned while playing at Saltford Lock this summer.
Friends of Aaron's at Hanham Youth Club, which he used to attend, had been raising funds in memory of their pal by selling coloured wristbands for £1 with the words Rest in Peace Aaron ABF (Aaron Burgess Forever) Burgess.
But on Christmas Eve – which would have been Aaron's 15th birthday – club manager Aaron Bees was horrified to receive a call from the cleaner to say the centre had been burgled – and all of the money raised in memory of Aaron stolen.
Popular Aaron, 14, was with friends at the riverside in July when he decided to go down a chute in the middle of the weir but was dragged under water by the current.
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Despite frantic attempts by friends, Aaron could not be saved and after a six-hour search by police, firefighters and volunteers, the Sir Bernard Lovell pupil was found dead.
Raiders had forced their way in through a back door at the youth club and made their way upstairs where they used a spade to smash their way into the office.
Once inside they forced open the digital safe kept under the desk and took the £300 which had been raised by selling the wristbands.
Also in the safe was money raised to replace a bench installed in memory of 12-year-old Rob Davis who died after he was hit by a motorcycle on the ring road at Longwell Green six years ago.
Around £150 had been raised to help towards the cost of replacing the bench which was installed after his death but had fallen into a poor state of repair and had to be removed by the council.
A further £200 of the club's own money was also stolen from the safe. The thieves also got into the main room of the club and into the coffee bar where they stole £25 from the tills, around £50 from a fundraising bucket on the bar and some controllers for a Playstation3 games console.
Mr Bees, 32, who has run the High Street youth centre for eight-and-a-half years, said: "Everyone is devastated at the break-in.
"Aaron died in the summer and everyone was devastated by his death.
"They wanted to do something to raise money in his memory – it has been very important to them.
"Aaron used to come to the youth club and there are still lots of his friends which attend.
"It is so upsetting that this money which has been raised in memory of Aaron and Rob has been stolen."
The club is one of the busiest in South Gloucestershire and regularly welcomes around 500 young people through its doors each week.
The bill for repairing the damage to the club is expected to run into at least a couple of thousand pounds.
The club is currently closed over the Christmas holidays and due to re-open on January 7.
Mr Bees put news of the break-in on the club's Facebook page with people describing the theft as "disgusting" and said they hoped the thieves "got their comeuppance".
The theft has been reported to police who have been at the club carrying out an investigation.
Aaron's family and friends said they were sickened by the theft.
Aaron's dad, Jamie Burgess, 35, said: "It is sick someone can take money which was raised in memory of Aaron and which people have worked so hard to raise. I hope the police catch whoever is responsible."
Aaron's best friend, Connor Wiltshire, 14, of Longwell Green, said: "I am very upset and find it hard to believe someone could sink so low to do something like this."
Anyone with information about the break in and theft is asked to contact police on 101.