Elderly woman has two purses stolen in bus stop distraction theft

File photo: Herts Police are issuing safety advice to elderly people following a number of scams
File photo: Herts Police are issuing safety advice to elderly people following a number of scams

An elderly woman has been targeted in a distraction theft while waiting for her bus in Hemel Hempstead.

The 82 year old, who does not wish to be named, was left ‘shaken’ by the incident in Waterhouse Street, in which a woman approached her and engaged her in conversation about the bus timetables.

A man, who was with the woman, then stole the victim’s purse from her shopping trolley, at around midday on Monday. The callous crooks also made off with another purse belonging to the victim’s neighbour, for whom she had been doing some shopping in the town centre.

The purses contained cash to the value of around £70, bank cards and sentimental items including a photograph of the victim’s late husband.

A friend who also wanted to stay anonymous said: “She’s extremely shaken up at the moment.

“Money was taken, but there were also things you can’t replace, like photographs.

“It shows you can’t really trust anyone.

“People need to be aware, even if this stops just one other lady from having her purse stolen.”

The incident is the latest in a long line of attacks on the elderly and vulnerable in Dacorum, after a series of phone scams and distraction burglaries on homes have been reported.

Police are issuing personal safety tips to older people following the latest threat.

Officers advise using a handbag that can be closed properly – preferably zipped up – so that it is more difficult for someone to open it and reach in.

They also suggest wearing bags cross-body and not just over one shoulder, or using a purse lanyard which attaches your phone or purse or wallet to your bag or clothes.

If you do keep your purse in a shopping bag, put your purse at the bottom and not near the top, and use a shopping bag that can be closed.

Be as secure with your mobile phone as you would your purse or wallet and ensure it is put away safely if you use it in the street.

You can also register your valuables on the free online property database www.immobilise.com, so that police have a better chance of being able to return them if lost or stolen.

Report incidents straight away and always dial 999 in an emergency.

PC Johanna Miles, investigating Monday’s theft, urges anyone with any information about the incident to contact her on the non-emergency number 101, quoting crime reference D1/14/6577.

Alternatively, call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.