Pickpocket gang grab �1,000 in map scam

A WOMAN robbed of �1,000 cash by a callous gang of pickpockets has warned people to be on the look out.

The brazen group of three men targeted Carol Barker, 63, in broad daylight and in front of three sets of CCTV cameras moments after she left the bank.

The retired nurse, who had just collected the money from Lloyds/TSB in The Broadway, Elm Park, to help her son buy a new car, said: “Just after I left the back, a man came up to me and forced a map near to my face and grunted something as if he wanted directions.

“I kept saying ‘put the map down, I can’t see it properly’, but he wouldn’t move it. I couldn’t see my bag. Another man came over and started pointing at the map. It must have been around that pointed when one of them unzipped my bag and took the envelope with the cash out. It didn’t take more than two minutes.

“I’m really kicking myself for falling victim to this. I just want to appeal to everyone to keep their guard up and be vigilant and if you are approached tell them to go away loudly.”

Carol, a neighbourhood watch coordinator, of Dawes Avenue, Hornchurch, quickly realised she had been robbed and called police who told her this sort of crime was rife with professional gangs targeting vulnerable victims moments after they have withdrawn money.

CCTV images from inside the bank shows two of the men apparently scouting for victims in the minutes before striking at 11.30am last Friday in a car park near Elm Park tube station.

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It is feared many more people have fallen victim to organised gangs employing similar distraction techniques.

Two of the men, all of whom were of eastern European appearance, were aged in their late 40s to mid 50s, the third was early 20s.

A Havering police spokesman said: “Victims have been targeted by a Eastern European gang who approach them after leaving the bank or post office.

“The police have gone to all the banks and informed them of what is happening and we are downloading CCTV images to view the suspects and have also mounted plane clothed officers in the area.”