Bogus officials strike in Harrogate

26 May 2011

Detectives in Harrogate are investigating after distraction burglars struck at the homes of two elderly women.

At around 5pm on Wednesday 25 May 2011, a man posing as a water board official called at the home of an 89-year-old woman, at Duchy Court on Otley Road.

The man said he needed to check if there was a water leak at the property and asked the victim to take him into the kitchen and run the taps for 90 seconds.

He also asked her to empty the cupboard under the sink, at which point the victim became suspicious and asked the intruder for identification.

The man said he would go and ring his boss, before leaving empty handed.

He is described as of middle eastern appearance, 20-25 years-old, around 5ft 8in tall with a slim build, dark eyes and short dark hair. He was wearing black trousers and white top and spoke with a foreign accent.

Approximately 30 minutes later a man, who said he was a plumber, visited the home of another 89-year-old woman on Park Road, Spofforth.

The man came to the back door stating that while fixing a neighbour’s washing machine he had cut through a mains pipe and needed to check her upstairs taps were working.

He flashed what looked like an ID badge on his belt and the woman let him in.

Once inside the suspect went upstairs. The victim followed and asked the man what he was doing when she found him in her bedroom. He replied that he was checking the radiators and then left the house.

Officers believe that the man may have had an accomplice as when he had left, the victim discovered that some cash was missing from a downstairs dresser as well as money from an upstairs wardrobe.

The suspect, who was dressed all in black, is described as white with lots of dark hair.

Detectives investigating the incidents have been making house to house enquiries in the area and are appealing for any witnesses to come forward.

Detective Constable Rebecca Smith, of Harrogate CID, said: “How people can live with themselves after targeting vulnerable, elderly women in this way is unbelievable.

“It is a low, cowardly act and I am appealing to anyone who can help identify the offenders to contact the police or Crimestoppers as soon as possible.

“I would urge anyone who saw any suspicious behaviour in the vicinity of either properties around the time of the incident to get in touch.

“I would also be interested to hear from anyone who has been approached in similar circumstances to contact the police with information.”

DC Smith also urged residents to be wary about who they let into their homes and urged family members and neighbours to keep an eye on more vulnerable members of the community.

She added: “It is vital that you check the validity of anyone who visits your home. Always check the identification of visitors – genuine callers will always carry ID and will be happy to wait while you phone the company they represent to check them out.

“If you have a door chain, use it at all times and don’t take it off unless you are completely satisfied that the caller is genuine.

“I would urge people with elderly neighbours or family members to keep an eye out for them and help them to understand the dangers of bogus callers.”

If you would like to report a bogus caller to your home, contact North Yorkshire Police on 0845 60 60 24 7.

Alternatively, Crimestoppers can be contacted anonymously on 0800 555 111.

For more advice on combating bogus callers and distraction burglary, visit the North Yorkshire Police website


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