bag theft reconstructionOliver Killig/DPA/Press Association Images

Greater Manchester Police are calling for witnesses after an 86-year-old woman was mugged yesterday morning. She was afraid of being burgled, so carried her life savings with her at all times: the muggers got away with £7,000, including £1,000 she had won in a casino.

So can you help, and what can we learn from this?


The theft

The 86-year-old had been on a night out at the Genting Salford Casino, where she had won £1,000. She took a taxi back to Grosvenor Street in Swinton at about 2.35am on Sunday morning, but just as she got out, a mugger snatched her handbag and made off with it.

To make matters even more appalling, not only was she carrying her winnings in the bag, but her life savings too. The police said she had been worried about being burgled over the Christmas period, so had been carrying the money around with her.

Police Constable Michelle Ingham said: "This was a particular cruel robbery on a vulnerable, lone, elderly woman who had been enjoying a night out at the casino and was returning home with a large amount of cash in her handbag.

"She kept her life savings with her because she was afraid her home would be burgled while she was out, but sadly has fallen victim to just such a crime by a despicable and callous thief.

"As a result, she now faces not just a bleak Christmas but an uncertain future beyond that."

Can you help?

The police say the thief was a young man, about 5ft 4in tall and of a skinny build. They are urging anyone with any information to call police on 0161 856 5232, 0161 856 5250 or the independent charity Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111.

Ingham said: "We desperately want to get this woman her money back so we are appealing to anyone who has information to come forward. I would appeal to anyone who either witnessed what happened or suspects who may be involved to call us immediately.

"It might be this thief starts bragging about unexpectedly coming into money so please, if you do suspect who it might be, search your conscience and tell us what you know and help us stop this woman enduring a miserable Christmas."

Valuable lesson

We can only hope that someone does come forward, but while it is a terrible story in itself, it also goes to show just how vulnerable we all are when we are out and about.

The police say there are some vital steps you can take in order to reduce your chances of becoming a target:
  • If you have to walk alone at night take extra care. Stay on roads that are well lit and relatively busy
  • If you're carrying a bag, try to have it across your chest and keep your hand over the fastening
  • Be aware of your surroundings and stay alert to what's going on around you
  • Be careful with your electronics; talking on a mobile phone, listening to an MP3 player or carrying a laptop bag shows thieves that you have something to steal
  • Don't carry important documents or credit cards that you do not need
  • Only take your wallet out when you need to
  • If you think you are being followed, cross the road or go into a shop and stay there until you're sure you're safe

It's also essential that you have cover for your personal belongings. Make sure your home insurance covers you for any valuable item you regularly take out of the home.

It may seem obvious, but the way to avoid having something taken from you in a mugging is not to be carrying it in the first place. You may feel that your cash isn't safe in the bank. However, the Financial Services Compensation Scheme guarantees that if anything should happen to money in a bank account, the first £85,000 is protected. It means that however little you trust the banks, your money is far safer in there than being carried around the streets.