Police have today issued an e-fit likeness of a man they want to speak to after a County Durham pensioner lost thousands of pounds when a burglar tricked his way into his home.
A man called at the home of the 73-year-old in Coxhoe on Monday, May 23, at about 4.15pm. He knocked on the back door and, after he claimed to be from the water board, the victim let him in. The caller distracted the victim by getting him to run taps in the kitchen and unlocked the front door so his accomplice could enter the property. The second man went upstairs into the bedrooms and took £12,000 cash and other financial documents.
After hearing the second man upstairs the victim challenged the burglars and they ran from the house in the direction of Front Street.
It is believed that around the time of the burglary a grey BMW 3 series coupe was parked on the corner of The Grove/Front Street, a short distance from the scene. A man was sitting in the driving seat and another appeared to be keeping watch on the victim’s home.
The BMW – whose registration included 09KXN or similar - was seen just over an hour earlier travelling past the victim’s home with four men inside who were paying unusual attention to houses in the street. One of them, thought to be the “lookout”, is believed to have been seen at about 1pm that day walking close to the victim’s home with a second man. He was wearing different clothes and both had identification cards on cords around their necks.
“These men, they were so believable, telling me there was a problem with the water. After I realised they were up to no good I chased them out of the house but it was too late, they had already taken the money. I am so angry that I let them in in the first place but, they were so convincing, I had no reason to think they would steal from me,” said the victim, who is not being identified.
“This disgusting crime is a perfect example of the depths these criminals will sink to in order to steal from vulnerable elderly people. The offenders were clearly in the Coxhoe area for some time before they called at the victim’s home and I would like to take this opportunity to appeal for any witnesses who may have seen them acting suspiciously, or the grey BMW, in the north Durham area on the day of the crime. The public are often the key to this type of investigation so if anyone has any information, no matter how small I would urge them to contact us,” said Detective Constable Mick Turner, a member of the Operation Bombay team, a specialist regional police unit, set up to combat distraction burglaries.
Leanne Clough, of Northumbrian Water, said: "More than half of these criminals pretend to be from a water company. Northumbrian Water’s partnership with Operation Strongbow gives us the opportunity to raise awareness about this callous crime.
"For extra peace of mind we have a password scheme - genuine Northumbrian Water employees will know the registered password. To sign up for this scheme, customers should ring us on 0845 717 1100 or log onto www.nwl.co.uk."
Advice from the Bombay team is as follows:
• Always keep both your front and back doors locked, even during the day.
• Always use a door chain when answering the door.
• Always ask for identification and refuse entry if not provided.
• Always check identification thoroughly. Close and lock the door while you telephone the organisation. Do not ring the number on the card given to you by the caller. Either use the phone book, the number on a bill or keep a handy list of numbers near the phone.
• Please remember, a genuine caller will not mind waiting while you do these checks. They understand the problems of doorstep crime and will be pleased you are keeping yourself safe.
• If you think that the caller is suspicious, or if you think you have become a victim of doorstep crime, please contact the police immediately. You could stop someone else becoming a victim.
• Don’t keep large amounts of money at home. Seek advice about this from the Citizens Advice Bureau or Age UK.
• Please pass this advice on to older family members and neighbour, it could prevent them from becoming a victim.
Anyone with information about the burglary in Coxhoe should contact DC Mick Turner on 0191 3752692.