Police hunt for supermarket thieves who stole £20,000 from shoppers

Police believe the two men pictured, working with others, have pocketed 20,000 by targeting supermarket shoppers. Picture: Sussex Police
Police believe the two men pictured, working with others, have pocketed 20,000 by targeting supermarket shoppers. Picture: Sussex Police

Supermarket shoppers should be on the alert for thieves after a number of incidents in Brighton and Hove, police have said.

This follows a recent spate of thefts throughout Sussex in which supermarket customers, and some other shoppers, have been watched whilst entering their PIN numbers and have then had their purses and wallets stolen as they leave the store, according to police.

Sussex Police said suspects then withdraw large amounts of cash from nearby cash machines before the victims are aware.

The two men pictured, working with others, are believed to have been successful in obtaining nearly £20,000 by targeting victims in this way.

Since November last year there have been 22 such reports in Sussex including three incidents in Waitrose in Hove and one at Asda in Brighton.

Sussex Police revealed Waitrose was targeted on January 19, when thieves were unsuccessful, but two other incidents at the supermarket on March 1 and June 17, saw £1,000 and £3,500 stolen respectively.

The incident in Asda was on March 11, when £1,000 was taken.

Police said incidents have also taken place in Lewes, Worthing, Haywards Heath, Chichester and other areas of Sussex.

Investigator Kayleigh Bartup said: "We are also working with the large supermarket brands to raise awareness about these incidents among staff and customers. Be alert and aware of strangers when shopping in large supermarkets and never leave your bag or trolley unattended at any point. Try not to be distracted by strangers, and also be alert for any suspicious activity around your vehicle which you should keep secured.

"It appears that these men, and others, may strike up to twice a day in different towns, and then lay low for a while, so we need to maintain awareness even when there are no reports."

The men in the photo released by police, taken at Sainsburys in Worthing on June 20, are described as of Eastern European appearance, one bald and the other with dark hair.

Anyone who has any information about the incidents is asked to contact Sussex Police online or call 101, with the crime reference 47170066290.

Police said if you see anyone behaving suspiciously in this way, alert store security staff or dial 999.