Sneak thief has ‘gift o’ the gab’

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LARNE residents are being urged to remain vigilant following a string of distraction burglaries at the weekend.

At around 4pm on Saturday, police received reports of two incidents at the Fleet Street area of Larne and a third on Curran Road in the town.

Detectives believe the three burglaries are linked and the culprit is described as a male around 40 years old, approximately 5’7’’ tall, medium build with short, dark hair, swarthy skinned and possibly has a scar down one side of his face. It is also believed that he speaks with a southern Irish accent.

It is understood the man gained entry to the homes of elderly people by saying he was there to fix the locks, or pretending he knew the victim from many years ago. The offender took a quantity of cash in two of the burglaries and left empty-handed in the third.

Detective Constable Frank Robinson told the Times that the incidents were not the work of opportunistic thieves.

“It is clear that these burglaries were planned in advance and that elderly residents were being targeted specifically. I would therefore urge anyone who sees anyone suspicious hanging around elderly people’s homes to contact police.

“We are following up forensic and CCTV leads, and officers have been knocking on every door in the area. From what we can gather, the culprit has the gift of the gab and may tell his victims fairly detailed stories,” he added.

Police are investigating another burglary that day.

It took place on the same day between 3pm and 3.30pm at a house on Coast Road near the junction with Branch Road. Entry was gained to the home of a disabled pensioner by forcing a rear window of the detached property. A number of ornaments were taken in the burglary, but DC Robinson said he does not believe the incident is connected to the other three burglaries that took place on Saturday.

Anyone with information about any of these incidents is asked to contact Larne CID on 0845 600 8000. Or if someone would prefer to provide information without giving their details, they can contact the independent charity Crimestoppers and speak to them anonymously on 0800 555 111.

Police have offered the following advice and would ask family members to reinforce this advice with elderly relations:

- Think before you open the door - use your chain and spy hole or look out of the window to see if you recognise the caller.

- Always ask callers for proof of identity. Genuine callers will carry a photographic identification card. Ask to see their identification and check this closely to make sure that it is valid. If you are unsure, telephone Quick Check. Dial 0800 013 22 90 and the person on the other end will check the caller at your door is legitimate. The service is free and operates 24 hours a day. Genuine callers will not mind waiting until you have checked that they are who they say they are.

- Alternatively, if you are not convinced of the identity of the caller, don’t let them in. Ask the caller to come back later and arrange for a friend, relative or neighbour to be present on their return.

- Finally, be aware. You know who lives on your street so if you see someone acting suspiciously note down any important details such as a description or car registration and contact police. We will follow up on your call and there is every possibility your information could prevent a crime.