Reward to catch purse thieves

EFFORTS to catch a gang of eastern European "dip-in" thieves preying on elderly shoppers were stepped up today – with a bounty placed on their heads.The Evening Star is offering a £250 reward to help catch the thieves, who have got away with thousands of pounds by stealing purses from people's bags in a series of swoops on towns across Suffolk.

EFFORTS to catch a gang of eastern European "dip-in" thieves preying on elderly shoppers were stepped up today - with a bounty placed on their heads.

The Evening Star is offering a £250 reward to help catch the thieves, who have got away with thousands of pounds by stealing purses from people's bags in a series of swoops on towns across Suffolk.

The gangs have a route across the region, targeting towns like Ipswich and Felixstowe every few weeks to carry out fresh thefts and then disappear.

But the incidents are leaving the vulnerable and elderly - already under siege in their homes from the worry over doorstep conmen - frightened to go shopping in case their purses are stolen.

Many targeted have been older members of the community, but a 55-year-old woman who had her purse taken in BHS in Ipswich on Friday warned anyone was at risk.

The woman, who did not want to be named said: "A woman of Eastern European appearance came up to me and asked how much something was. I helped her look for the label on it and then she was holding it up with a top, asking me what I thought.

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"I didn't think anything of it at the time but as soon as I went to leave the shop I noticed that my bag was lighter and then realised my purse had disappeared.

"I didn't notice anyone else with her but I have no doubt that that was when it happened as I'd bought something upstairs just before that.

"I reported it straight away at the bank but they had already managed to use my card in a food store."

Sgt Mick Richardson, of Felixstowe police, welcomed the Evening Star's offer of a reward to be paid for information which leads to a conviction.

He said it was possible a large eastern European gang was carrying out the thefts but split into splinter groups which visited the towns and the same team did not return each time to a specific town.

He said: "It is probable they rotate the gangs so the same people are not seen in any town and recognised. They carry out a couple of thefts and are probably gone from the town as soon as the second one is done.

"It seems they are after cash - we found one stolen purse thrown away in public toilets and all the cards, house keys and other items were still in it but the money was gone.

"If they visit a town at the right time, say when residents have collected their pensions, they can make quite a bit of money. We would encourage people to have their pensions paid directly into a bank."

Shoppers seeing any suspicious behaviour should report it immediately using 999. Anyone with information about specific incidents should call police on 01473 613500.

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