Mon, Dec 20, 2010
The New Paper
Besieged and Bagged
Caught on CCTV: Woman steals bag containing $50k
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By Elysa Chen

CALL them audacious or silly, but after nicking a handbag containing $50,000 from a restaurant, the woman, 44, and her boyfriend, 37, continued staying in a budget hotel just a few doors away.

And that was their eventual undoing. Within 18 hours of the crime, they were caught.

The theft at Dong Fang Mei Shi Restaurant along New Bridge Road happened at around 1.30am on Thursday.

The restaurant's CCTV footage showed a woman trying to take the handbag, which was behind the counter. Twice, her attempts failed as employees came out of the kitchen.

On her third attempt, she managed to take the handbag without being noticed.

She even had the audacity to pause to talk to one of the employees before leaving at about 1.40am.

The theft was discovered only at about 2am when Madam Chen Cui Hong, 37, the wife of the restaurant owner, returned to the restaurant and wanted to put some change into the cash register.

She had earlier left her handbag behind the counter before going out for dinner.

Frantic, she searched the restaurant and rummaged through rubbish bins outside the restaurant in a bid to find her lost handbag.

Owner Huang Jian Kang, 41, said: "She was crying her eyes out and sounded very frightened when she called me. She was carrying so much money because we were supposed to pay our workers' salaries that day."

Madam Chen could not sleep that night, but her husband had a plan.

When he went to work the next morning at about 10am, he mobilised friends who worked in the area to keep a lookout for the woman.

Mr Huang said in Mandarin: "It was very exciting. One of my friends, who owns a restaurant nearby, saw the footage and exclaimed, 'I recognise her!' She said that the woman was often seen in Chinatown with a man.

"So, we showed more people the footage and asked them to keep a look out for the couple."

One of his customers who saw the footage, Mr Zhang Yi Tang, 25, saw the woman at Temple Street an hour later and called him.

Mr Huang, who is a Singapore permanent resident, said that he and Mr Zhang then followed the woman around and she ended up going to a budget hotel at about 6.50pm.

He called the police. Some of his friends and employees surrounded the hotel in case the couple left before the police arrived.

One of his friends, a 42-year-old restaurant owner who declined to be named, had been helping the police identify the couple through CCTV footage from the hotel when they came into the lobby.

She said in Mandarin: "I had just identified them from the CCTV footage when they appeared right in front of me!I kicked the policeman next to me to let him know that they were the people they were looking for."

Sensing that something was amiss, the woman tried to leave through the hotel's front door, but Mr Huang stopped her.

He said: "I blocked the entrance and told her, 'Wait, the police are looking for you.' That was when she turned red."

Rolex watches

The police questioned her in the lobby of the budget hotel before arresting the woman and her boyfriend, said Mr Huang.

When police officers went to the couple's room, they found the stolen handbag, two Rolex watches worth about $7,000 each, and about $2,000, said Mr Huang.

Mr Huang said: "I was so happy when we tracked the culprit down, but there was only $2,000 left."

Madam Chen said: "This is hard-earned money. Fifty thousand is not a small sum. I hope that the police can recover as much of it as possible."

A police spokesman said that a woman in her 40s was arrested for theft. And a man in his late 30s was arrested for drug-related offences.

Police investigations are ongoing.

This article was first published in The New Paper.

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