Jailed: Ricketts and Smith]

A couple who stole thousands of pounds from members of the public as they travelled on London buses have been jailed.

Stephen Ricketts, 53 (19.05.66) of Slagrove Place, Lewisham, pleaded guilty to seven counts of theft, one attempted theft and three counts of fraud at Southwark Crown Court on Thursday, 4 July.

On Friday, 16 August at Blackfriars Crown Court, he was sentenced to 18 months in jail.

Samantha Scott, 49 (16.02.70) of the same address, pleaded guilty to three counts of fraud and five counts of handling stolen goods. She was sentenced to eight months in jail at the same hearing.

The court heard that Ricketts targeted victims, many of them elderly, as they were travelling on buses and stole items from their handbags.

On one occasion, the cards were then used by himself and Scott who spent more than £2,000 over the course of two days.

This incident occurred on 9 November 2018 when the victim, a 74-year-old woman, was on a bus in Deptford with a friend.

Ricketts boarded the bus at the same stop and moved close to the victim, using his rucksack to shield his hands from other passengers before removing the victim’s purse and its contents from her bag.

After the theft, a number of bank cards were used to make significant purchases at shops across south London.

In another incident on 17 November 2018, Ricketts targeted a 62-year-old woman on board a bus from Lancaster Gate to Oxford Circus.

CCTV from the bus showed Ricketts getting on board and standing beside the woman – he then lifted up his bags to hide his hands before reaching towards her handbag.

The victim did not notice anything until she was about to leave and realised her purse was missing, which contained Euros valuing over £1300.

Officers from the Met’s Roads and Transport Policing Command Proactive Team launched an investigation and identified that the same Oyster card number had been used in four of the incidents, suggesting them to be linked.

CCTV analysis identified Ricketts as the suspect in all offences, as well as Samantha Scott for carrying out the fraudulent card transactions.

The pair were arrested at their address in Lewisham on 7 March. A search of their address found property stolen from the victims as well as items of clothing matching that worn by the suspects in the CCTV footage.

On sentencing, the judge said that the couple’s behaviour had been “disorientating and distressing” for the vulnerable victims that had been preyed upon.

Ricketts was sentenced to 18 months each for two of the thefts and 10 months for each of the remaining five. He was also sentenced to seven months each for the three counts of fraud. All offences are to be served concurrently.

Scott was sentenced to six months for each of the three counts of fraud and eight months for each of the five counts of handling stolen goods – all to be served concurrently.

PC Rob Yau, who led the investigation, said: “Ricketts deliberately targeted vulnerable victims for his own gain, leaving some of them significantly out of pocket.

“It is clear that these two individuals were intent on making money from other people and would likely have continued to do so had they not been caught.

“People in London should feel safe using public transport and we are committed to working alongside Transport for London to ensure those intent on behaving in this way are identified and prosecuted.”

List of incidents:

1 – 13.01.2018 – bus from Notting Hill Gate to Oxford Circus, value of items stolen around £150;

2 – 18.07.2018 – bus from Westminster Bridge to Elephant and Castle, value of items stole around £30;

3 – 21.07.2018 – bus from Oxford Street to Victoria Bus Station, value of items stolen around £150;

4 – 21.07.2018 – bus from Oxford Street to Regent Street, no items stolen;

5 – 30.08.2018 – bus from Royal Albert Hall towards Green Park, value of items stolen around £40;

6 – 09.11.2018 – bus in Deptford, cards stolen and used to make purchases over £2000;

7 – 17.11.2018 – bus from Lancaster Gate to Oxford Circus, value of items stolen over £1,300;

8 – 13.12.2018 – bus from Marble Arch to Bayswater Road, value of items stolen around £80.

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