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Man loses thousands of pounds during spate of burglaries
Friday 4th January, 2008

Police in Wigan are warning elderly people to be vigilant after a 78-year-old man had thousands of pounds stolen during a spate of bogus official burglaries on pensioners.

Officers are now urging people, particularly elderly residents, to ensure they don't keep large amounts of cash around the home.

At about 5.45pm yesterday, Thursday, 3 January 2008, a 78-year-old man living on Hey Street, Lower Ince, answered his front door to a man who told him that kids had climbed over his fence and were playing in his garden.

He then locked his front door and went into his back garden to check. While in his garden, offenders sneaked into his house via the back door and searched through his bedroom.

They stole two tins containing a substantial amount of cash and attempted to leave the house but were confronted by the pensioner.

He attempted to grab the tins back, but one of the offenders grabbed him in a bear hug grip while the other one ran off with the tins. At this point the man was released and the second offender ran off.

The first offender was described as white, about 5ft 7in tall, 20-years-old, with a slim build and a local accent with a stutter. The second man is between 5ft 7in and 5ft 9in tall with a heavy or muscular build.

This was the second time this particular victim had been targeted in a matter of days. He was the first of four elderly people to be targeted by a different offender on Friday, 28 December 2007.

In the first incident at about 11am, he answered his front door to a man who claimed he was there to look at his home's guttering.

He took the victim outside to inspect his guttering and then went back inside. He then left the man downstairs and went into his bedroom where he searched through his wardrobes and drawers. The victim then disturbed him and he left empty-handed.

In the second incident which occurred between 3pm and 4.30pm, an offender saw a 77-year-old woman fall over in the street and followed her to her house on Harold Avenue, Ashton-in-Makerfield. He asked her if she was OK then followed her indoors and told her he needed to check on her home security.

He then sat down in the living room, at which point the woman told him he was making her feel uncomfortable and she asked him to leave, which he did.

Around the same time, a man knocked on a door on the same street and used the same story about checking on home security with a 95-year-old woman.

He was again let into the house, went upstairs and stole a purse containing cash before leaving.

The final incident, at about 4.45pm, saw an 88-year-old woman living on Orchard Lane, Leigh, answer her door to two men who told her they wanted to clean her guttering.

One of the men then went upstairs so the woman became suspicious and called a member of her family. Both men then left empty-handed.

The offender in the incidents on 28 December is described as white, about 5ft 8in tall with a thin build, in his late 30s, clean shaven with cropped hair and wearing a stone coloured jacket and black trousers.

Officers believe the same man could be responsible for the offences on 28 December. Also, while the description of the 3 January offence is different, officers believe they could be part of the same group of offenders targeting elderly people in the area.

Detective Constable Lyndon Wright of Wigan CID said: "These despicable people clearly have no morals and will happily deprive elderly people of their hard-earned savings.

"It is vital that people do not keep large amounts of cash in the home because this makes them easy targets to unscrupulous criminals.

"The victims in all these cases were clearly chosen because they were vulnerable.

"While I want to warn people that they must be vigilant and take no chances when opening their doors to strangers, I also want to reassure them that we take reports of this kind extremely seriously.

"I would encourage people to alert the police to any suspicious callers you might have, even if nothing is stolen, as the information you can give us may be the key to catching these devious people.

"I cannot emphasise enough that you do not have to let anyone into your house if you don't feel comfortable doing so. Genuine callers would never wish to cause you distress, and would be happy to call again at another time when someone else was present. They will always carry identification and will be happy to show it to you on request. If they don't, don't let them in."

Anyone with information is asked to call Wigan police on 0161 856 7203 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

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