Page last updated at 16:00 GMT, Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Ketchup-squirting gang steal Christmas cash from women

CCTV still
Thames Valley Police want to question this woman about the theft

An 84-year-old woman and her daughter have lost £4,600 of Christmas savings after a gang distracted them by squirting them with tomato ketchup.

Violet Burnejko and Pauline Driver, 60, were approached soon after leaving the Halifax Bank in Oxford with the money.

Two women and a man distracted them in the nearby Westgate Centre by squirting sauce on their coats. They stole the money as they helped to clean them up.

The bank has been criticised for counting out the cash in public view.

'No money for Christmas'

Samantha Holmes, Ms Burnejko's granddaughter, said the whole family had paid in to the savings account: "We're just very angry that people can take your hard-earned money like this.

"My nan's been doing this Christmas club for our family for 20 odd years, and people can just come along and take it all away.

"We have no money for Christmas now, but they've not ruined Christmas as we've still got each other."

The safety and security of our customers is a top priority
Halifax statement

Ms Holmes said her grandmother was given the money in a room that was in view of passers-by, and a more secure room should have been used.

"We're angry with the Halifax, to be honest, for taking her into a room that can be seen from the street.

"They've always taken my nan into the room, so it's a wonder it hasn't happened before."

A statement from Halifax said: "The safety and security of our customers is a top priority and we were extremely sorry to hear about this incident.

"We contacted the police as soon as we were made aware and have been working with them to assist with their investigations.

"As this is a police matter we are unable to comment any further but we can confirm that we are assessing the meeting rooms in this branch."



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