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TO KETCH A THIEF; Victims hit by sauce scam.

Byline: Ben Spencer

STREET thieves have found a bizarre way to distract victims - squirting them with tomato ketchup.

The crooks secretly skoosh the sauce on to shoppers' clothes.

Then a "kind-hearted" accomplice offers to hold their bag while they get cleaned up - and takes off with it.

Police believe the gangs are coming in from Greece and Spain. The robbers snap up cheap flights to the UK because they know they'll find easy targets here.

Elderly people are especially at risk.

One 67-year-old woman victim, who did not want to be named, said: "I had just taken pounds 100 out of a cash machine and was walking to a shop when my jacket was covered in tomato sauce.

"Someone came up to me and offered to help and the next thing I knew my bag was gone.

"It was a horrible experience."

Teams of robbers have been ferried in minibuses to large shopping centres where they go quickly to work before security realise they are there.

Police crime prevention manager John Grant said: "In Spain, one of the main distraction techniques is for a person to squirt tomato sauce all over the victim.

"Their accomplice then approaches the victim and offers to hold their jacket or bag while they clean themselves up., "Some people take them up on it - especially the elderly, who are generally more trusting."

John works in Kent, where shopping centres have been targeted along with hotspots in London.

He added: "Maybe they will spend a week in the UK.

"They will watch people take money out of banks and then select their victim and follow them."

Heinz are rethinking their new tomato ketchup bottles after complaints that they are not squeezy enough.
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Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Aug 15, 2009
Previous Article:LESLIE MANSION IS A pounds 2.5m SALE FLOP; Sleazy star takes house off market.

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