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Wharfedale pensioners targeted by pickpocket gang
A gang of pickpockets preyed on vulnerable elderly women as they shopped in supermarkets, a court heard.
Distressed victims, including two pensioners in their 90s, lost purses, money, bus and library passes, as well as medical prescriptions.
Two of the gang members, who are all believed to be Polish nationals, appeared for sentence at Bradford Crown Court on Monday.
A 16-year-old girl, who is pregnant, and an adult woman, had earlier pleaded guilty to conspiracy to steal.
Two other alleged gang members, a man and woman, are wanted on police warrant.
The teenager, who cannot be named because of her age, was sentenced to a 12-month youth rehabilitation order. She was warned that if she breached it, she could be locked up.
Judge John Potter said the girl spoke to victims to distract them while an accomplice swooped on purses and handbags.
The judge said the elderly women were left “significantly traumatised”.
Sentence on the woman was adjourned after new psychiatric evidence was provided to the court. She was bailed to return on October 2.
Judge Potter told her: “In my judgement, your previous convictions, and the circumstances of these offences, make immediate custody almost inevitable, and you must prepare yourself to receive an immediate custodial sentence.”
Prosecutor Bashir Ahmed told the court the Polish nationals worked as a team purse-dipping.
They struck in Sainsbury’s in Otley on January 4 when an 85-year-old woman had her purse stolen, containing her bus pass and library card.
Two days later, an 82-year-old woman was targeted at Marks and Spencer in Guiseley and a 94-year-old woman in Waitrose in Otley. The first victim lost £69 in cash, but her discarded bag was returned after she was traced through a medical prescription found in it. The second woman lost £70 cash and her bank cards.
The team was back in action on January 10, stealing from an 81-year-old woman at Morrisons in Bradford.
Mr Ahmed said the 16-year-old girl distracted her while her purse was stolen from her shopping trolley.
The plucky pensioner grabbed hold of the thief but she got away.
The gang struck twice in Huddersfield on January 13, targeting women aged 79 and 92.
Police used CCTV evidence to catch gang members, and a search of a house in Bradford uncovered stolen property.