A court usher has been convicted of stealing cash from her colleagues in Worksop after police caught her with a capture bag.
Karen Webb, of Trent Road, Retford previously pleaded guilty to 18 counts of theft from purses and bags belonging to staff at Worksop Magistrates’ Court between July 2012 and February 2013. The thefts amounted to a total of around £430.
At Lincoln Magistrates’ Court today (Thursday), the 50-year-old was sentenced to a four-month jail term, suspended for 12 months.
It is the first time Notts Police has used the capture bag tactic. It was developed by Worksop Town Centre beat officer PC Dan Cooper and crimefighting company SmartWater, specifically in response to the court thefts.
Police suspected an ‘inside job’ after receiving a report in February of a number of thefts from a rear room in the court.
PC Cooper said: “We were racking our brains as to how to detect this crime. We had to be relatively covert due to the sensitive nature of the crimes and there were legal constraints because it was in a court.”
“Cameras were considered but then rejected, before we approached the investigators and scientists at SmartWater about some sort of ‘capture’ tactic. The capture bag was what we came up with this.”
When the handbag is tampered with an alarm is activated, in this instance at the Worksop neighbourhood policing team’s office, and a call is made to a nominated phone, in this case PC Cooper’s.
Cash in the purse was also smeared in a transferrable form of SmartWater, which means that anyone handling it would be covered in the forensically detectable liquid.
PC Cooper said: “We put it in position at the courthouse and that very same day the alarm was going off in the neighbourhood office, indicating someone had tampered with the bag.”
West Bassetlaw chief inspector Steve Cartwright said: “PC Cooper and SmartWater consultant Bjorn Campbell-Lyons have worked really hard on this.”
“Conventional surveillance techniques were disqualified because of the premises being a court building and issues relating to legal privilege; however, they came up with a technological answer to the problem, which worked fantastically and helped secure the evidence we required.”
SmartWater chief executive Phil Cleary said: “This is an excellent example of how our investigators will work in close partnership with the police to devise and carry out a covert operation.”
“The use of SmartWater technology has aided more than 1,000 criminal convictions and maintains a 100% conviction rate in court.”
“We are delighted with the outcome of this case and will continue to work closely with the police and our other partners for future operations.”
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