Warning issued after handbags stolen in Athlone distraction thefts

Gardai in Athlone have encouraged supermarket shoppers to be vigilant - and advised women never to place their handbag or purse in their shopping trolley - after distraction thefts were carried out at two supermarkets in the town earlier this week. 

Sergeant Andrew Haran of Athlone Garda Station said the two incidents, which took place in different supermarkets inside the space of an hour on Tuesday afternoon, were very similar. 

The same three people, a female and two males, carried out both of the thefts. In both cases female shoppers, who were storing their handbag in their shopping trolley, were targeted. 

One of the perpetrators distracted the victim by approaching her and chatting to her. While this was happening, the person's purse or handbag was stolen by the two others. 

The first of the incidents took place in a supermarket in the centre of Athlone at 3.45pm on Tuesday, while the second happened in a different town centre supermarket approximately 45 minutes later. 

A bank card that was stolen in one of the incidents was used to purchase a number of items in another store in the area a short time later. 

Sergeant Haran said the Gardai were investigating and "following a line of inquiry" in relation to the thefts, and he said it was a concern that two such incidents had happened in quick succession. 

He encouraged people to be aware of the potential for a distraction theft and to never use their trolley as a resting place for a purse, wallet, or handbag.