Thieves used children & pretended to be police officers to gain trust of elderly residents
A trio of distraction burglars who targeted elderly residents across South West Birmingham last year have been jailed.
Francis Maughan, 31 of no fixed abode, Joseph Fannin, 46 and Jolene Mahon, 29 of Abdon Avenue, Weoley Castle preyed on elderly residents in Frankley, Northfield, Rubery and Cotteridge, in September last year, on occasions gaining entry to their homes by pretending to be police officers or carrying a small child.
The heartless trio were arrested in October 2016 following a campaign to identify them on social media.
Maughan and Fannin struck on 20th September 2016, when they tricked their way into the home of a 90 year old partially sighted woman in Loynells Road, Rubery, carrying an 18 month old little girl. Believing them to be family members, the woman let them in and was distracted while they stole her purse, containing just £5. The victim screamed out when she realised what was happening and they left, leaving her traumatised by the incident.
A few days later, Maughan took a small boy to the home of an 87 year old woman in Weoley Castle, saying the child had had kicked his ball over her fence. The woman offered to help but as soon as the opportunity arose, Maughan slipped into her home and took her handbag.
29 year old Jolene Mahon joined Maughan and Fannin on several burglaries. She joined Maughan on 5th September when they used the lost ball distraction on an 82 year old woman in Bristol Road South, Northfield. They made off with her bank card, which they used to withdraw £500 from a nearby cash machine minutes later.
The following day, the pair targeted an elderly man in a post office in Selly Oak, stealing thousands of pounds. Mahon befriended the 81 year old man after witnessing him draw out a large amount of cash at the Oak Tree Lane post office. When he returned to his car in Katie Road, placing the cash in the boot, she got into the passenger seat and continued to chat with him, giving Maughan the opportunity to swipe the money.
On 21st September, Maughan and Fannin pretended to be police officers seeking intruders when they broke into sheltered housing on Ashill Road, Rednal.
Later, CCTV images were obtained of the pair, after they broke into the home of a couple in their 80s, where they stole £800 from an 83 year lady with dementia who was home alone while her husband popped out. As they left, the callous duo bumped into the lady’s husband – who was just arriving home to the address in Frankley Beeches Road, Northfield, – telling him to call the police as they had been burgled.
Between 22nd and 25th of September, further addresses in Frankley, Cotteridge, Longbridge and Northfield were targeted, including an address in Holly Hill Road, Frankley, where a 76 year old woman with dementia awoke to find Maughan and Fannin in her living room. They said they were police officers who needed her bank cards and pin numbers and suspicions were raised when they called the victim’s son in an attempt to get the pin numbers as she couldn’t remember them.
Following the release of the CCTV footage, Mahon and Fannin were arrested at her Abdon Avenue flat on 5th October. A manhunt for Maughan led to him being traced to London and arrested by the Metropolitan Police just 4 days later.
On Friday 29th July, all three were jailed after admitting conspiracy to commit burglary, while Maughan and Mahon also admitted theft from a motor vehicle at Birmingham Crown Court.
The trio received sentences of almost 20 years between them: Maughan – 10 years nine months, Fannin – five years three months, and Mahon – three years behind bars.
DC Dave Cockbill from the force’s High Harm & Vulnerability Team, said: “We were dealing with three selfish, compassionless individuals…they actively targeted the most vulnerable people in society and even used children to help them gain access to their homes.
“They stole money, including pension payments, that the victims could ill afford to lose.
“None of the victims were physically harmed but many were left distressed at having been tricked in this manner.
“I’d like to thank the public for their support in this case as the information we received on the back of our public appeal led directly to us identifying Maughan, Fannin and Mahon as the suspects.
“Police and the courts take a very dim view of those who deceive vulnerable people; offenders can expect to be jailed.”
A massive thank you to all the B31 Voices who helped keep an eye out for elderly relatives and neighbours, reported incidents and information to the police.
Please see advice from West Midlands Police below:
Burglars won’t go to the trouble of breaking in if they can just knock and be invited in. So always be on your guard when anyone you’re not expecting – a man, a woman or even a child – turns up at your door.
Bogus ‘officials’ may be smartly dressed and claim to be from the council, gas board, health authority or other organisation.
Bogus ‘dealers’ may offer to buy your antiques, furniture or jewellery, at what seems to be a good price.
Bogus ‘workmen’ may say that they need to come in to check something or make urgent repairs. You also need to be careful of callers who offer to make building repairs such as guttering or tarmac your drive. Often they’ll ask for money in advance; they may even offer to drive you to the bank to withdraw money to pay them.
Genuine callers will normally make an appointment first and will carry identification with their photograph on.
ALWAYS PUT THE CHAIN ON
If someone calls at your door:
Check to see who it is by using the spy hole if you have one, or look through a front window.
Always put the chain on before you open the door. (If you don’t have a chain it’s a good idea to get one – they don’t cost much)
With PVC doors, it can be difficult and costly to fit a door chain. Check with the manufacturer before you buy a PVC door, that a chain will be fitted.
FIRE SAFETY – only put on your door chain as you answer the door – don’t keep it on all the time as this could delay your exit in case of fire.
Look at their clothing. Some official callers will have a uniform bearing their organisation’s name or symbol.
If you don’t know the caller, ask to see their identity card. Check it carefully, and keep the chain on while you do this. Genuine callers won’t mind if you close the door while you do this.
Some public utility services (e.g. water, electricity, gas) operate a password system. Contact your local branch to find out more.
If you’re still not sure, ask the caller to come back later. You can then check their story by phoning the organisation or company they claim to represent. Look up the number in your own telephone directory. Don’t rely on the telephone number on their card – it may be the number of a crook’s partner.
Bogus callers sometimes work in pairs. Beware of one distracting you while the other steals your property. The best practice is not to let them in.
Ensure your back door is locked if you are answering the door to someone you don’t know.
Watch out for anyone who says they’re in a hurry. Don’t let them pressure you. If in doubt, call a neighbour or friend.
If you have any suspicions at all, don’t let them in.
If you’re still not happy, phone the police – dial 999 – and tell them what’s happened. And tell your neighbours.
Always put the chain on and use the spy-hole before you open the door.
Never let anyone in unless you are absolutely sure they are genuine.