“All of a sudden, one of them just lunged at me and grabbed the money,” Mr Stewart told Nine News on Tuesday evening. “They’re two young people, able-bodied – they should go out and get a job rather than stoop to those lows.”
Witnesses helped Mr Stewart – who was not injured – and police were contacted.
After the two men were both arrested, Mr Stewart said he was pleased that they had owned up to their mistake.
“They’ve realised that they did do the wrong thing and I’m proud of them for doing that,” he told Nine News on Wednesday.
The 42-year-old said he had been overwhelmed with the level of public support.
“Australian people, I’ve said this before, they’re the best people in the world. I didn’t think I had many friends but it looks like I’ve got the whole of Australia.”
He said he would donate any money he received from well-wishers to charity.
The release of CCTV footage sparked outrage from the public, and Sydney City Police Area Command appealed for anyone with information to come forward.
Mr Elphick was arrested at Green Valley police station about 3.15pm on Tuesday and was taken to Liverpool police station, where he was charged with stealing from a person.
After a further public appeal, Mr Laidlaw, from Riverwood, was arrested at Campsie police station at 9.30am on Wednesday.
Mr Laidlaw was also granted bail with strict conditions and is due to appear at Burwood Local Court on August 4.
Detective Inspector David El-Badawi didn’t mince words when describing the pair.
“There’s no other words to say but two low-life grubs. They saw Julian and they took the opportunity,” he said, calling them cowards.
Sydney City Police Area Commander, Superintendent Gavin Wood, thanked the public for their help.
“Within the first hour of our initial appeal being posted on the NSW Police Force Facebook page, it had reached more than 100,000 people and had thousands of shares and comments,” he said.
“We had great support from the media in sharing the images and details out there, and the kind words and community support for Julian is nothing short of outstanding.”
Matt Bungard is a journalist at The Sydney Morning Herald.
Mary Ward is a reporter at The Sydney Morning Herald.