Rolex Rippers: women pretending to be cleaners grab luxury watch

Rolex Rippers strike again: Eastern European women pretending to be cleaners grab luxury watch from man’s wrist after £1m string of ‘honeytrap’ thefts across south of England

  • Police have warned men to be wary of the ‘Rolex Rippers’ in the south of England
  • Young female fraudsters flirt with men and then steal their expensive watches 
  • The crime ring allegedly stole watches worth more than £1 million in the last year
  • Most took place in affluent areas of Dorset, Hampshire, Wiltshire and Surrey 

Rolex Rippers struck again when two Eastern European-accented women pretending to be cleaners stole a valuable watch from a resident’s wrist after knocking on the front door.

Police have warned other people to beware of ‘distraction’ thefts after the timepiece grab in Trenchard Avenue, Wendover.

It follows a string of similar thefts by so-called Rolex Ripper gangs across the south of England in the last two years.

The attractive ‘honeytrap’ fraudsters are now likely to be more active as temperatures soar and short-sleeve weather returns to Britain, leaving watches easily exposed.

Describing the Wendover theft, Thames Valley Police said: ‘On answering their front door, the person turned to get a piece of paper and the women followed them into the property.

‘One of the women wrote a number on the piece of paper and the other hugged the person with force before they left the property.

‘The person then realised their watch had been stolen from their wrist and they had been left with bruising.’

CCTV released in October caught one of the Rippers (centre) operating at West Surrey Golf Club, Enton Green, Godalming, Surrey

A CCTV image of a prime suspect after a robbery in lower Parkstone, Poole, in September

Last year, most of the crimes took place after April in the affluent areas of Dorset, Hampshire, Gloucestershire, Wiltshire, Surrey and Sussex, with many reported at exclusive golf clubs whose wealthy members tend to unknowingly ‘advertise’ their watches

Police describe the two women as white, in their early twenties and approximately 5ft 9in tall.

They were wearing similar dark or black coats with dark trousers and wore white lace-up trainers, which looked brand new. Both spoke with Eastern European accents.

They are thought to have allegedly struck more than 50 times last year. 

In January a 64-year-old man was taken to hospital with serious injuries after being attacked by two thieves who snatched his Rolex watch.

He was badly hurt in the robbery in South Coast Road, Peacehaven, said Sussex Police.

It came after several forces including Sussex warned before Christmas about ‘Rolex Ripper’ thieves operating across south and west England, preying on obviously wealthy OAPs for their watches.

In the December alert, police urged wealthy elderly men about women strangers – sometimes dressed as nurses.

The Rolex Rippers target obviously wealthy OAPs leaving posh golf clubs or outside upmarket stores like Waitrose, checking to see if they are wearing the expensive timepieces on their wrists.

Then they move in closer and slip the Rolex into their handbag without their agog victim twigging till the women have sauntered off.

Police hunting two women dubbed the ‘Rolex Rippers’ released CCTV images of the suspects 

CCTV of the suspects pulling up outside victim Richard Gray’s flat at Canford Cliffs in Poole

In one police force area alone – Hampshire, next door to Sussex – more than 30 thefts have been reported in the last 16 months, with all the victims targeted because they are wearing high value Rolex watches.

But there may be many more elderly men who have been robbed but are too embarrassed to come forward and admit they were duped.

Some could be terrified their wives might learn how they were open to chat-up lines from women strangers.

It’s thought the women – thought to be Eastern Europeans – have netted watches worth more than £1 million in the last year, with many more thefts reported in Gloucestershire, Dorset, Sussex, Devon and Cornwall.

Dorset Police issued CCTV pictures taken in October of two women aged about 40 and 20 with ‘dark hair’ and ‘eastern European accents’ who ’embrace’ their victims and take the designer watches using sleight of hand techniques.

Hampshire Police said some victims reported the women claimed to be doing a survey or a petition.

‘They often use a clipboard as a prop to make themselves appear genuine.

‘Once the survey has been completed, the suspects often compliment the victim and try to embrace them, with reports suggesting they may try to hug or kiss them.

‘It is during this time that the item, usually a watch, is removed using sleight of hand techniques.

‘The suspects are then spotted leaving the area in a vehicle.

‘The desired target locations seem to be near golf courses and supermarket car parks.

‘However, some offences have also taken place outside residential properties.’

‘What the hell has happened to our country?’: Victims of the ‘Rolex Rippers’ speak out

DEREK FREESTONE

Derek Freestone was sitting in the passenger seat of his friend’s Mercedes, parked in the picturesque fishing town of Emsworth in Hampshire, when two women knocked on the window and asked him to sign a petition for a deaf school 

Derek Freestone, a retired wine merchant from Birchington, Kent, was en route to the Goodwood Festival of Speed motor racing event with a friend when they stopped in Emsworth at 3.15pm on July 7 last year to pick up medication from a pharmacy in the town.

He was sitting in the passenger seat of his friend’s Mercedes, parked in the picturesque fishing town of Emsworth in Hampshire, when two women knocked on the window and asked him to sign a petition for a deaf school.

No sooner had he done so than one of them lunged, throwing her arms around the 77-year-old as she tried to kiss him.

Shocked, he barely gave a thought to the second lady, who had been shaking his left hand.

Only after he’d pushed the first woman away and shut the car door did he realise his gold Rolex – bought 20 years ago for £4,500 but now worth £12,500 – was gone.

‘I jumped out and shot round the car but there was no sign of them. It happened so quickly,’ says Mr Freestone, still reeling from the robbery three months later.

‘It really hit me in the pit of my stomach. What the hell have we done to our country that this can happen in broad daylight?’.  

He said the two women were dark-haired, one in her late 20s, one late 30s, and around 5ft 5in and 5ft 7in tall.

ALAN BRUCE

Alan Bruce, who had his £14,000 watch stolen by two women

Within a day, the gang had moved on to their next target – Alan Bruce, 63, who lives at the edge of Ferndown Golf Club and was seven miles away in Wimborne, Dorset, when he was robbed at about 11am on July 15.

Having parked his Audi TT Sport, he was approached by two women carrying a clipboard in the town centre. He estimates both were in their late 20s or early 30s.

‘The taller one was in jeans and a dark top, the shorter one in a long, brightly coloured dress,’ says Mr Bruce, a divorced father of two who frequently travels for his job as a marine engineer.

‘I pick up accents and I would say they were either Albanian or Bulgarian. They said: ‘We’re doing a petition for a deaf centre’ and would I sign a document? I said no problem.’

Left-handed and wearing his £14,000 gold Yacht-Master Rolex on the same hand, he signed the petition. Then the younger woman said she loved his aftershave and asked where it was from. To his astonishment, she then asked him for a cuddle. 

Alarmed, he instinctively put his right hand on his back pocket to protect his wallet and pushed the women with his left hand before walking away. 

It was only as he did so that he realised his Rolex was missing, its double clasp having been prised off without him feeling a thing.

Hampshire Police have listed robberies from Locks Heath, Fareham, Chandler’s Ford, East Wellow, Petersfield, Bordon and Emsworth.

One elderly man in Chandlers Ford had his Rolex stolen after he was approached by two women in a Waitrose car park.

They asked him to sign a petition relating to children, he obliged and was hugged by one of the women. He later discovered that his watch was missing.

In October, a retired pilot told how he fell victim to a female gang dubbed ‘the Rolex Rippers’ for preying on men with pricey watches.

Michael Parry had his £15,000 watch stolen by a woman who asked him to sign a petition and then grabbed him and repeatedly shouted ‘sex’ to create a distraction.

In November, Gloucestershire Police told how Rolex Rippers offered an OAP a sex romp and stole his watch worth thousands.

The ‘elderly’ victim was approached by two women strangers in Somerford Keynes, near Cirencester.

They ‘engaged him in conversation before offering him sex in exchange for money while holding on to his arms’ said detectives.

The pair left the scene after he managed to free his arms – and he realised his Rolex worth thousands of pounds had been stolen.

Police said the women were described as being Eastern European.

Hampshire Police issued the following advice: When you meet a fund-raiser in person, check their credentials – street collectors should wear an ID badge that is clearly visible

Most fund-raising materials should feature a charity’s name, registration number and a landline phone number If in doubt, ask for more information – a genuine fund-raiser should be happy to answer your questions.   

Alan Bruce, a 63-year-old marine engineer, lost his £14,000 Rolex after being distracted by two women posing as charity workers outside a shop while dressed in a T-shirt.

Although the incident happened in the centre of Wimborne, Dorset, Mr Bruce lives next to £2,000-a-year Ferndown Golf club and can’t rule out the possibility he was followed by the duo.

Mr Bruce said: ‘It’s going to get worse as the weather gets warmer and people wear short sleeved clothes – they got me when I was wearing a t-shirt. It was a lovely hot day. You’re basically advertising it to them. 

Why is it so difficult to track down stolen Rolexes? 

Pictured: Rolex Submariner watch. The timepieces are being robbed in broad daylight by the ‘Rolex Rippers’ using techniques that distract the victims

Rolexes are problematic stolen goods, as each one has a unique serial number and every watch reported missing is put on the company’s lost and stolen register.

Stolen Rolexes can change hands several times between criminals over a period of years, as the truth about their original ownership becomes obscured, while their value depreciates.

Michael Parry, whose Rolex was stolen in the Cotswolds village of Bourton-on-the-Water, said: ‘If it goes to be repaired or serviced, they check the number – and if it has been reported stolen they won’t give it back to the customer.’

‘They’ve got away with it so far so there’s no reason why they won’t come back. They’ll be out here for their summer shopping spree when the warm weather hits. People have got to be on their guard. 

‘I’ve always had a real thing for expensive watches but I don’t think I’ll ever wear one again. I’ve got a much cheaper one now.

‘I’d say the same to others – the more Rolex watches around, the more they’ll have to steal.

‘I’m very wary now, not just with watches but with all my items. I think it’s a lottery whether or not they’ll get caught. Hopefully the police will get lucky.’

Two days after Mr Bruce fell prey to the rippers, Robin Haycock was also targeted in the car park at Ferndown Golf Club.

As he climbed out of a golf buggy a woman, aged in her 20s, made polite conversation with Mr Haycock before springing on him. She grabbed hold of his £20,000 Rolex Daytona watch, tore it from his left wrist and sprinted off towards the car park where she escaped in a black getaway car.

Mr Haycock, 75, said: ‘I’m disappointed they haven’t been caught – they won’t stop until they’ve been found.

‘People need to make sure its not obvious that they’re wearing a Rolex watch. I haven’t replaced mine and don’t plan to.’

At West Sussex Golf Club at Pulborough, where several members warded off the Rippers last summer, general manager Alistair Adams said he would be briefing staff ahead of the summer season.

He said: ‘I will be warning members that there is a possibility this gang will get going again in the summer months. We did have one visit from them last year. It was a summer’s day and a woman got out of a car and walked to our terrace where she approached some of our members. She made out that she was filling in a survey.

‘She got the vibe that it wasn’t going to work when they started to ask questions and she hurriedly made a quick exit, so it wasn’t very successful.’

A spokesman for Surrey Police previously suggested the thefts were being perpetrated by an organised crime group.

A spokesperson for Dorset Police, which is investigating up to 10 of the robberies, admitted that they had no definitive data about what all victims were wearing.

They added: ‘We are sharing information and intelligence and actively working with other forces nationally through a National Acquisitive Crime Operation with a view to identifying offenders and the onward movement of stolen items.’

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