Baby Jesus stolen from Peterborough Salvation Army

Nativity with missing baby Jesus Image copyright Salvation Army
Image caption The baby Jesus was on display inside the shop - and then he was gone

Thieves have stolen "the most important person" in a charity shop's nativity set - the baby Jesus.

The small porcelain figure was taken earlier this week from the Salvation Army shop in Peterborough.

"Heartbroken" staff are using the hashtag #FindJesus to appeal for its return as they said the set, which they hoped to sell, was "virtually worthless" without Jesus.

It was the latest in a spate of "unseasonal crimes at the shop".

Store manager Philippa Millard noticed Jesus was missing from the £12 display on Tuesday.

Peterborough Salvation Army minister Major Gary Chaundy said: "It's heartbreaking that someone would steal the centrepiece to Christmas, especially when our faith in Jesus is the reason we feel called to serve our community through this shop.

"All we've been left with is a virtually worthless nativity - no-one wants to buy a set without the most important person in it.

"We just hope that it's someone who feels strongly that Jesus shouldn't be in the set before the big day itself, and he's going to reappear in time for Christmas."

The organisation said there had been a spate of thefts and break-ins at the shop.

Image copyright Salvation Army
Image caption A till was smashed open in an earlier break-in at the shop

About £1,000 of damage was caused when thieves broke down the back door and smashed open the empty till last Friday night.

They left with just £1 which was in a charity collection tin.

Mrs Millard said: "It's been a horrid week - first the break-in then someone whips the baby Jesus out from under your nose."

The charity will now have to find £1,000 to fix the damage "instead of using that to help others", she added.

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