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Warning to householders after distraction burglaries

Dorset Police is warning householders – as well as friends and families of vulnerable people – to be aware, and on their guard, after five distraction burglaries in the county during the space of five hours.

One of the crimes was in Wimborne, two were in Poole and two in Bournemouth – all taking place between 2.30pm and 7.30pm on Monday 12 April 2010.

A Dorset Police spokesman said: “These were despicable crimes perpetrated by people who have taken advantage of trusting pensioners. People should keep an eye on elderly neighbours and immediately report any suspicious activity to the police.

“Householders should only open their door to callers when it’s on a security chain and they should never let anyone into their home without first asking for – and checking – their identity documents.

“Residents should keep callers on the doorstep with the security chain still on the door while their identity is established by calling the number the person claims to be calling on behalf from a directory and not their details in case they are false.

“If you are in doubt about the honesty of a caller, do not let them into your home. If you think someone is suspicious, note down their vehicle registration and call the police immediately,” explained the Dorset Police spokesman.

The first incident was at St Catherine’s in Wimborne between 2.30pm and 2.45pm when a man posing as a water board official gained entry to a property, occupied by a woman aged in her 90s, on the pretext of running taps in connection with work next door. Cash was taken after the property was searched and police are keen to speak to three white stocky men seen leaving the house.

In the second incident at a property in Darby’s Lane, Poole, between 4.30pm and just after 5pm, a white man claiming to be from the water board entered the home of a woman aged in her 80s on the pretext of testing the water because of a burst water main. Money was later found to have been stolen from the woman’s purse.

In the third incident at a property in Danecourt Road, Poole, between 4.30pm and 6pm, two white men approached an elderly man on the pretext of checking the water pressure due to a burst water main. One man talked to the pensioner in his kitchen and the other man disappeared. Later, the elderly man’s son discovered that the pensioner’s upstairs rooms had been searched and cash taken from his wallet. The first man was aged in his late teens while the other man was around 40 years old.

In the fourth incident at Charminster Close, Bournemouth, between 7pm and 7.30pm on Monday 12 April 2010, a man posing as a police officer entered the elderly man’s home on the pretext of telling him that his property had been burgled. Once inside, the man was joined by a second man and the pair talked to the pensioner and distracted him. After the men left, the victim discovered money was missing.

In the final distraction burglary at a property in Cornish Gardens, Bournemouth, around 7pm, two six feet tall white men entered an elderly woman’s home on the pretext of calling from the ambulance service to treat the householder.

While one of the bogus ambulancemen talked to the pensioner, the other man searched the property. The two men left after being challenged by the elderly woman. Later, cash was found to have been taken. While at the property, the two bogus ambulancemen unsuccessfully tried to enter two other properties on the pretext of asking them to sit with the pensioner or asking them to call an ambulance.

Anyone with information about the five distraction burglaries – or anyone who saw suspicious activity in the locations around the time of the offences – should call Dorset Police in confidence on 01202 222 222 or the free and anonymous Crimestoppers line on 0800 555 111 where mobile phone tariffs may apply.

Anyone seeing suspicious activity that could be a crime in progress should immediately call Dorset Police by dialling 999 while anyone with information about past incidents should call Dorset Police in confidence on 01202 222 222.