Detectives were last night examining CCTV recordings at Great Ormond Street Hospital to try to identify who stole 20 Christmas presents for seriously ill children staying in intensive care.
The presents, bought using the hospital's charity fund, had been wrapped and were stored in an area of the hospital not used by the public, said Scotland Yard. Police declined to say yesterday if a staff access card would have been needed to reach the area where the gifts, which included games consoles and portable DVD players, were being kept.
Inspector Neal Anderson said: "To steal presents that were supposed to be for children too sick to be at home with their families at Christmas is beyond belief. I would also urge the thief to try and think about their actions and do the decent thing and return them."
The gifts were stolen between Friday and yesterday. A long-standing donor to the hospital replaced the gifts as individuals and businesses contacted the hospital to offer to replace them. "We have been overwhelmed by generous offers from individuals and companies to replace the missing items," the hospital said.
The central London hospital, which has more than 200,000 patient visits each year and is the largest centre for paediatric research outside the US, has some of the most high-resolution commercial cameras in operation.
They focus on protecting children, however, making it less likely that the thief would have been caught in the act of taking the gifts from a cupboard in a private part of the hospital.