A CHARITY shop volunteer has desperately appealed for a thief to return a photo of her late mother, stolen along with her handbag, while she was at work in the shop.

Jane Byrne, 44, was helping in theSt Mary’s Horse Refuge shop, in Sutton Road, Southend when a thief sneaked into a back room and stole her handbag.

It contained about £80, bank cards, car and house keys, her driving licence and passport. But most precious of all was a photo of her mother, Lesley Lamb, which was in a silver keyring, with a cover. Mrs Lamb died of ovarian cancer aged 53, almost 13 years ago.

Ms Byrne, who started helping at the shop two months ago, said: “That photo goes everywhere with me.

“Each year, on the anniversary, me and my children take the photo and go out for the day to celebrate her life, doing fun things she enjoyed doing with the children. The anniversary is in August and to knowIwon’t have it this year upsets me.

“I feel as if I’ve lost my mum all over again.It’s the only copy I have.

“It’s even more cruel to have been stolen from a charity shop.”

Ms Byrne has appealed for the picture’s return with posters and on the social networking website, Facebook, as well as going through nearby bins in case the thief dumped the keyring.

She added: “I’d love the person to be caught, but all I really care about is getting my photo back.If anyone finds it or has a conscience, they can drop it in, no questions asked, to the shop.”

The charity, which cares for ill treated and malnourished horses at a refuge in Rochford, has improved the shop’s security and fitted door alarms since the theft, on Monday, June 10, between 10am and 2.45pm.