Published: 00:00, 11 December 2003
| Updated: 09:44, 11 December 2003
A POLICE officer leading the hunt for thieves preying on old people in the Canterbury and Herne bay areas says it could become a murder inquiry unless they are stopped.
Det Insp Martin Lyddon spoke of his concerns as he revealed that a task force involving dozens of officers has been set up to catch the culprits. He is urging old people to keep their doors shut to callers unless they are friends or relatives.
Operation Wigwam is hunting an intruder who has already confronted and assaulted several pensioners in the district.
A separate operation is also running alongside to trap a group of bogus callers who have stolen thousands of pounds from their victims.
Efforts to catch the thieves have been stepped up as the number of offences escalated to nearly 20 across the district in the last five weeks.
In two of the most alarming incidents recently, one elderly man was pushed to the floor in his hallway and had his pockets searched while another was sprayed in the face with a noxious substance and robbed.
Another victim lost the wedding and engagement rings of his recently deceased wife to an intruder.
Det Insp Lyddon said: "We are particularly worried at the confrontation and force being used in some of these incidents.
"The victims are often elderly and frail and my fear is that they will suffer some physical assault which will end in a murder inquiry.
"Our advice now is to the elderly must be simply to keep their doors shut unless they are a friend or relative."
Anyone with information is asked to call Det Con Jason Maitland on 01227 762055.