A Romanian husband-and-wife team of pickpockets drove from town to town stealing purses from elderly women shoppers, Burnley Crown Court was told.
The couple struck first in a charity shop in Colne and used the woman’s bank card to empty her account before moving on to the Co-op in Brierfield where they befriended an 88-year-old and left her penniless, and were only caught when sharp-eyed security staff at Marks and Spencer in Burnley spotted them attempting to steal from two more shoppers.
Aura Luca (28) and Paradalian Luca (36), of Haycliffe Road, Bradford, were each jailed for 10 months and ordered to pay £100 victim surcharge, but Mr Recorder Philip Parry declined to order their deportation.
They were both given eight months for the thefts and two months for being in breach of a suspended imposed for a similar offence only weeks before they went on their thieving spree on April 2nd.
The court was told Aura Luca’s previous record included being jailed three times: in Romania for false imprisonment and procuring a woman to be a prostitute and in France for a drugs offence.
Passing sentence, Recorder Parry said the Luca’s first victim, aged 69, was in the Colne charity shop shortly before 10am. By 10.07 they had made three bank withdrawals amounting to £190 and made three more attempts to draw £300, £200 and £30.
A little over an hour later, they were in the Co-op at Brierfield and went out of their way to be be friendly with the 88-year-old, and held open a fridge door for her. She told police she remembered thinking “If only there were more people like that”, but they took her purse with its £40 and her cards and bus pass. She had to borrow £1 from the shop staff to get home.
Twenty minutes later they were seen on CCTV in M&S, dipping their hands into older women’s shopping.
When store detectives stopped them they denied all knowledge of what they had been doing. Mr Patrick Buckley (defending) said: “They came to this country believing it was the promised land. Theft in necessity is always an ugly offence, but people do it when they have no money and it was not for anything other than feeding their family.”