“WE can’t believe how low people can sink.”

Organisers of Totton’s annual lantern parade have hit out at a thief who stole some of the town’s Christmas lights - before they had even been put up.

Furious residents are comparing the culprit to the main character in a hit movie based on the children's book How The Grinch Stole Christmas.

Cllr Neville Penman and fellow volunteer Ian Osborne were distributing the lights in Commercial Road when the thief struck between 5.30am and 7am.

He or she made off with two 6ft aluminium motifs with lights attached.

New Forest Post:

Cllr Penman, who started early to prevent any disruption to traffic, said: “We went down in our cars and placed the motifs beside every lamppost, ready to fix them once the hoist arrived.

“While it was still dark someone took two of the motifs.

“We don’t know why they did it. They might have been intending to sell them on Facebay or maybe it was their idea of fun.”

Organisers of the lantern parade took to social media to condemn the thief.

They said: “The lights have brought amazing Christmas joy to the people of Totton. Over 3,000 people turn up to watch them being switched on every year.”

Referring to the theft they added: “Can’t believe how low people can sink.”

Totton councillor David Harrison said: “It’s hard to know what goes on the heads of someone who would nick Christmas lights before the fantastic team of volunteers have even got them up.

"It seems to have been a wicked act.

"However, just like The Grinch, let's hope the person responsible comes to understand that Christmas has a deeper, more meaningful purpose. It would be nice if they returned the lights quickly."

New Forest Post:

Social media users have voiced their anger and dismay.

One woman posted: “How low can people get? We all enjoy these lights so much each year so to steal from all of us in Totton is disgusting.”

Saints legend Franny Benali is visiting the town on Sunday at 5pm to perform the switching-on ceremony outside Totton Conservative Club.

The former left-back earned iconic status at Saints during a fabulous 15-year career with the first team, turning out a total of 389 times between 1988 and 2003.

Earlier this year he succeeded in his five-year quest to raise £1m for Cancer Research UK.

Anyone with information about the theft of the lights can call Hampshire police on 101, quoting crime reference number 44190425358.