Police appeal for help to catch bogus charity collectors who targeted Otley shops

CCTV images of the bogus charity collectors in action at Barber's Tobacconist / Artamis Gifts, Otley.

CCTV images of the bogus charity collectors in action at Barber's Tobacconist / Artamis Gifts, Otley.

First published in Local news

The police are appealing for help to trace two bogus charity collectors who targeted shops in Otley.

The suspects, both tanned and in their late 20s to early 30s, acted as if they were deaf and mute when they visited stores on Westgate last Saturday.

Carrying clipboards, the men claimed they were collecting for a good cause but ended up intimidating employees at Barber's Tobacconist / Artamis Gifts and The Shoe Room, where they are believed to have stolen an iPhone.

Sales assistant at The Shoe Room, Charlotte Wise, said: "They came in pretending to be deaf and mute and only saying random words, it sounded like baby talk.

"They were really intimidating, I was really scared.

"I had taken out my phone to answer it and then put it onto the desk to talk to them.

"They asked for money and it looked like it was for a charity, because they had clipboards, so I gave them £5.

"Then they distracted me and walked out, and it was literally as they were going that I looked and thought 'where's my phone gone?'. Then I started to panic.

"Luckily, the women who were with me got good descriptions and we reported them to the police."

Shortly beforehand, Barber's Tobacconist / Artamis Gifts had been visited by the same pair - who were chased out by Alicia Barber.

Alicia, who markets the business, immediately posted up photographs of the men - captured by the shop's CCTV cameras - online after she heard about the theft.

She said: "They came at lunch time and barged around the counter to our till, asking for money.

"Our two staff didn't know what to do, and the men were giving them clipboards to read. The piece of paper said they were deaf and mute and asked for donations for a deaf charity abroad.

"I came down, saw them and shouted at them to get out.

"The guy in the white trousers came up to me and was signing something with his hands. It was quite clear they weren't deaf and it was just a huge con."

Outer North West Neighbourhood Policing Team Inspector Richard Coldwell said: "This was a distraction technique theft, though it's certainly a new kind of one to me and it's quite a pernicious one, as it preys on people's sensibilities.

"We've had similar elsewhere where these groups operate and they will go in to shops and use any kind of distraction method.

"The message is to be vigilant and not leave valuables on show. If anyone has information please contact us on 101."

One of the men was about 5ft 11ins tall with short, dark hair. He was wearing a pink T-shirt with dark, cut-off body warmer, white trousers and white shoes. The other was shorter, also had dark hair, and was wearing a dark blue T-shirt and shorts.

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