A man alleged to have stolen a Poppy Appeal collection box from the Bear Hotel in Devizes during Remembrance Week last year has had the case against him dropped after he failed to turn up for his trial.

Marcus Pocock, 39, of Quakers Road, Devizes, who has 159 previous convictions, 75 for theft or similar matters, had pleaded not guilty to stealing the Royal British Legion charity box on November 1.

He was due to stand trial before magistrates in Chippenham yesterday afternoon.

The three magistrates, prosecutor Lucy Conroy and defence counsel Andrew Watts-Jones were all assembled but Mr Pocock failed to turn up.

Mr Watts-Jones told the bench he was happy to proceed in the absence of his client but Miss Conroy said it was not so simple.

She told the court: “The case turns on the identification of the defendant in the CCTV footage.

“This is crucial in proving it was him who took the item.”

The case arose from an incident on November 1 when the collection box was taken from the reception desk of the Bear Hotel at around 5.15pm.

The hotel handed over CCTV footage to the police which showed a man picking up the collection tin and leaving the hotel.

He had been sitting near the reception desk but the receptionist could not see him as he was obscured from view by the Poppy box and at the time she was busy on the telephone.

It was only later that evening that the receptionist realised the collection tin was missing.

Miss Conroy asked that the bench adjourn the case but Mr Watts Jones opposed her motion.

He said: “This is entirely down to the incompetence of the Crown Prosecution Service.

“They knew last Thursday that the PCSO who arrested my client was not available today and yet they made no move to vacate the hearing.”

The magistrates considered both applications and decided not to adjourn.

Miss Conroy replied she could not proceed without evidence of identification so decided to offer no evidence at all.

The bench then discontinued the case against Mr Pocock.

Franklin Richmond, the Royal British Legion’s Poppy Appeal organiser in Devizes, who had been called as a witness, said he was disappointed by the decision.

He told the Gazette: “It’s all very unsatisfactory.”

This wasn’t the first time that Pocock failed to turn up for this case.

He was due to appear on January 2 for the first time but did not attend and a warrant was issued for his arrest.

He was arrested more than a week later and he appeared at Swindon Magistrates’ Court where he pleaded not guilty and the case was adjourned.