Elaborate scam involved men “flashing huge wads of cash”.
Two conmen have targeted an Oxford gallery, stealing more than £8,000 worth of jewellery through a distraction-type theft.
The men are said to have posed “as big spenders” showing off large wads of cash to the assistants at the Verandah Gallery close to the Banbury Road in Oxford.
One of the gallery’s owners, Leonora Pitt said she wanted to let other shopkeepers know what happened to help them avoid a similar fate this Christmas.
“They came in and went straight to the best and most expensive jewellery. [One] man said he wanted to buy presents for his family [and] asked to look at many different pieces and the sales assistant was watching him like a hawk,” said Pitt.
The man is said to have selected several items, which he asked to be gift-wrapped. He then asked to look at some of the silverware on display at the gallery and chose three large silver items, and waited while the sales assistant wrote out a receipt for each piece.
When asked to pay them men offered up a large amount of cash which, when counted, was not enough. The sales assistant told the man and he said it wasn’t a problem and that he would go and get some more.
He is said to have pushed a carrier bag containing the silverware back towards to sales assistant but at the same time managed to swipe a smaller bag containing the jewellery. It was only after he left that the sales assistant realised the jewellery was missing.
“It was worth about £8,000. We are a very small gallery and this is an absolute catastrophe for us. What is important is that other people are on the lookout for these characters. They are complete con artists,” said Pitt.
Verandah is due to close down on Christmas Eve due to what its owners have called “difficult trading conditions” in the area. Pitt has said the theft has soured the gallery’s last Christmas in business.
The two men who came into the shop are described as Eastern European, one slightly taller and larger in build, wearing dark grey trousers and a light grey jumper.
The second man was shorter with a slim build and wore dark trousers and black shirt. One of the men his said to have had “lots of gold teeth”.
Oxfordshire Police spokesman Chris Kearney said: “We are looking into this incident which we are currently treating as a shoplifting offence.
“We would appeal for anyone recognising the description of the men to come forward. It is quite unique jewellery and we would also ask anyone offered items like this for sale to contact us.”
Anyone with information can call Pc Stephen Mather on 101 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.