A pensioner who fell foul of a distraction burglar has warned elderly people not to open their doors to strangers.
Rita Osborne, 78, of Copthorne, had £60 and a collection of irreplaceable photos stolen when a man tricked his way into her home.
To make matters worse, Mrs Osborne ended up in hospital with a cut to her leg which needed five stitches after bumping into a drawer the thief left open when he fled.
Her ordeal began at 5pm on August 16 when the man knocked on her door saying he would be erecting a fence between her house and the one next door.
Mrs Osborne said: “Well my neighbour has been gone for five months – she passed away. Like an idiot I thought her daughter wanted a fence put up so they could sell the place. I let him through.”
The man made a show of pacing out the garden before heading for the back door.
Mrs Osborne said: “He went up to the back door and I thought he was trying to measure a straight line of where to put the fence. Then I suddenly thought ‘where the devil has he gone’ because he had vanished. I was going up the garden saying ‘where are you, where are you?’”
But the man was gone.
When Mrs Osborne’s neighbour heard what had happened, she immediately called the police.
The thief had taken £60 from her purse – but ignored her bank card – and had made off with her grey handbag, which contained photos of her parents, brother and sister.
She said: “I’ll never get those again. They were irreplaceable. That’s what hurt me more than any thing else.”
Mrs Osborne said: “I think it’s bloody disgusting really what he did. He was so friendly and polite.
“If I’d opened the door and he’d been bolshy I’d have said ‘you know the way you came in? Well you can turn round and go out again’.
“I hope his conscience pricks him – although he probably doesn’t have a conscience to prick.”
But she would like to thank a Horley man who found her bag stuffed into a hedge which he was trimming.
He returned the bag but refused to accept a reward.
Mrs Osborne described how fear had gripped her over the next few days but also her determination not to be cowed.
She said: “Someone said ‘you’re a tough old bird, you can handle anything’ and up until now I have. But I wasn’t expecting this. But he won’t beat me, you know.”
And her advice to other pensioners was: “Don’t open the door unless you know who it is. Don’t get caught how I got caught.”
Anyone with information should call 101 quoting serial 1130 of 16 August or contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111.