A newly-married couple have been left devastated after hundreds of pounds of gift cash was stolen from their wedding reception at a luxury Farnborough hotel.

Gary and Caroline Heselwood say their day was a let down after more than £730 in cash was stolen from greetings cards left by family and friends in a portable post box at the wedding breakfast at the Aviator Hotel on Saturday August 23.

Alarm bells started ringing for the couple, from Basingstoke, when they began sorting through the presents two days later and noticed cards were missing from some of their closest relatives.

The pair also suspected other envelopes had been opened so as to remove cash, and then crudely resealed.

Certain that something wasn’t right, the newly-weds went through the humiliating process of ringing all 90 guests to find out who had given money and cards, soon realising many were missing.

Hampshire Constabulary is now hunting the thief or thieves and officers are analysing envelopes for saliva samples.

Caroline Heselwood at her wedding at Aviator Hotel, Farnborough

Mr Heselwood, a plumber, said this week he and his wife had intended to spend the cash on a dream honeymoon in Mexico, which has now been put on hold.

“We’re just so upset and want to know what has happened,” said the 35-year-old.

“It’s put a right downer on the whole day. You just don’t expect that to happen.

“It was so embarrassing having to call everyone and say ‘sorry, but did you give us any money’.”

The Heselwoods spent more than £7,000 to hold their reception at the Farnborough Road hotel and also paid a further £150 for an enhanced security package only to find out following the theft that the hotel’s CCTV has been out of action for several weeks.

The white post box, which is about 2ft tall, was kept on a table in the main room where the wedding reception took place and moved to a locked ground floor room overnight.

Mr Heselwood said extracting the envelopes without unlocking the box could be done simply by turning it upside down and reaching inside.

The couple are unable to enjoy the remaining cards, as some are being examined by police and others are sealed in bags in case officers need to study them for evidence.

Hampshire Constabulary said no arrests had been made in connection with the theft while a spokesman for the Aviator said it would be inappropriate to comment while the matter was being dealt with by police.