Police warn people to be on their guard after cold callers burgle the elderly

Officers from Operation Remedy are advising members of the public to be vigilant –
while they investigate a series of distraction burglaries in the Bristol and South Gloucestershire areas.

A man and a woman have been targeting elderly people by saying they have been asked to visit them for a specific reason – often giving the name of someone.

They then try to distract them – while attempting to steal items from the property.

There have been seven incidents across the Southmead, Brentry, Shirehampton and Thornbury areas – and police are anxious this does not spread to other areas of the city.

A woman in Southmead has been targeted twice. On Sunday 23 August, a woman knocked on the door and tried to push her way in requesting some cold water. The victim denied her entry by pushing her to the chest and so the woman left.

Then on Sunday 30 August, a man visited the same property claiming to be a neighbour. The victim, who had answered the door with the safety chain on, said she did not know the neighbour. When a neighbour came out of their house nearby, the man ran away and into a silver/light coloured car.

Another woman in Southmead was targeted on Monday 24 August. A woman, wearing a face mask, entered the property via the French doors and said she was there to tell her that one of her relatives had died. The woman left without taking anything. 

On Tuesday 25 August, a man and woman entered the property of a man in Brentry. The victim was waiting for his carer to arrive and answered the door – and a man and woman walked into the house saying they had been sent to see if he was ok. The man searched the victim and took the wallet out of his trouser pocket, before leaving. The wallet had acard and £100 inside. 

A couple were targeted in Shirehampton six days later on Monday 31 August. A man and a woman knocked on the door and said they needed to speak to the occupant’s wife. They then stole a quantity of cash and jewellery. 

Two vulnerable women were targeted in Thornbury in September. The first on Friday 4 September when the victim’s carer discovered a man in the hallway, who asked about a mountain bike which was advertised. The carer asked the man to leave, which he did and the victim later noticed money missing from her purse. 

On Saturday 5 September, a woman with restricted mobility was also targeted in Thornbury. The victim was expecting her carer and had left her back door unlocked but closed. A man and woman entered through the door, with the man going into the living room towards the bathroom, while the woman said he was going to make a cup of tea.

They looked through the victim’s handbag, but nothing was taken.

The man is described as white, 5ft 8in tall, very thin, with long straggling hair, who spoke with an accent, possibly Irish.

The woman is described as white, 5ft 8in tall, with long dark hair and dark clothes, who also spoke with an accent, possibly Irish. 

Designated Investigating Officer from Operation Remedy, Alastair Binnie, said: “The suspects are callously targeting elderly and vulnerable people at night, often around the time when a carer is due to visit.

“This has been distressing for all of the victims and so I would ask if anyone can help with the investigation to please get in touch.

“I would also urge anyone with elderly relatives, friends or neighbours, to check in on them to remind them about the important safety advice for dealing with cold callers coming to the door. If you see any suspicious behaviour, then don’t hesitate to call 999.” 

Police have issued safety advice for dealing with cold callers coming to the door:

– Don’t leave doors or windows unlocked 
– Be wary of leaving doors or windows that are easily accessible open for long periods
of time
– If a relative or carer needs regular access to the house, ensure they have a key
– If you have a safety chain on your door, ensure its on before opening the door
– If you don’t have a safety chain, consider getting one fitted
– If you don’t recognise them, always ask to see their ID to ensure they are who they say they are, even if you are expecting someone
– If they can’t provide ID or you are still not sure, make them wait outside while you contact the organisation that they claim to represent
– If you are at all concerned, report them to the police via 999