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New criminal scourge of diners in Bishop's Stortford

Police are working with restaurants and coffee shops in Bishop’s Stortford in a bid to crack down on thieves targeting diners and drinkers at their tables.

Last Tuesday, a couple enjoying a meal in Giggling Squid had their evening ruined by a brazen thief who intimidated them before stealing a smartphone from under their noses.

The Giggling Squid, Bishop's Stortford. Picture by Christopher Hughes (11805513)
The Giggling Squid, Bishop's Stortford. Picture by Christopher Hughes (11805513)

Joanne and Gary Wilmot were dining in the North Street Thai eatery when, at around 7.45pm, a female dark-haired beggar approached their table, waved a sheet of paper in their faces and refused to leave.

The woman spoke in a foreign language. Her right earlobe was split, as though an earring had been yanked from it. She wore a dark jacket, light blue jeans and pumps.

She walked around a few of the other tables and pestered other customers before returning to Joanne and Gary – Joanne has since realised that the woman was scouting out potential victims.

When the woman returned to the Wilmots, she put her paper, which contained nonsense words and symbols, over Gary’s iPhone X and spoke to them in a foreign language.

“My first instinct was to get the paper off the table and throw it on the floor, but you try and be polite and understanding,” said Joanne.

The manager asked the woman to leave. She lingered for a few moments then left the restaurant suddenly. Shortly afterwards, Gary realised his phone was missing.

“She went of her own accord because she got what she came in for,” said Joanne.

“You sort of feel a bit violated. It’s just a phone, but there’s lots of personal things on a phone. It certainly put an end to our evening.”

It was the second such incident in a North Street restaurant in a week. The previous Tuesday (May 28) a foreign woman with a sheet of paper tried to distract social media businesswoman Tanya Filer while she was having a meeting in Côte Brasserie.

The woman was unsuccessful in taking Tanya’s smartphone. She also tried her luck at South Street Pantry earlier that afternoon, but was turfed out by owner Danielle Smart.

Stortford police are investigating a fourth incident. On Saturday afternoon a woman was caught on the Black Lion’s CCTV stealing a wallet.

Shortly before 5.30pm, the woman went into the Bridge Street pub and put a piece of paper over a man’s wallet which had been left on the bar.

She had a drink, then picked up her paper and the wallet and left.

Officers have been reviewing Côte’s CCTV. In it, the woman can be seen placing the paper over Tanya’s smartphone. With one hand over the paper, she moves the phone towards the edge of the table, then grabs it with her other hand.

The safer neighbourhood policing team believe the woman is part of a group of thieves operating across Essex and Hertfordshire. PCSO Adam Pemberton has been working with Stortford eateries to raise awareness of this type of crime.

Anyone with information about the Giggling Squid theft can call 101 quoting reference 41/50439/19.

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