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Fear stalks street as shopkeepers refuse to open up

PUBLISHED: 16:01 09 February 2007 | UPDATED: 14:27 07 September 2010

FRIGHTENED shopkeepers on a Highgate street are refusing to open their doors until a prolific thief is caught. The man targets women working alone in shops on and around Archway Road. He kept one woman prisoner inside Mendoza estate agents

Ben McPartland

FRIGHTENED shopkeepers on a Highgate street are refusing to open their doors until a prolific thief is caught.

The man targets women working alone in shops on and around Archway Road.

He kept one woman prisoner inside Mendoza estate agents, on Aylmer Parade, and the shop has now closed to anyone who doesn't have an appointment.

Gillian Kaul opened the door to the man who stole £200 in cash before locking her inside and walking away with the keys.

She said: "It was an extremely horrible experience. It lasted only 20 minutes but it felt like most of my life. We've always opened the door when people ring but I wish I hadn't that day.

"I told him I needed to leave the office and he said he wouldn't allow me to do that. I was shaking like a leaf. It was horrible.

"He kept insisting the reason I was scared was because he was black and the reason I was reluctant to open the door was because he was black."

On the same day Maria Constantinou was targeted when she was alone at Stitch in Time Tailors on Archway Road.

She said: "I realised straight away he was up to no good. I was on the phone to my daughter and I asked her to call for help. I was shaking from top to bottom.

"He said to me, 'What's your problem, is it because I am black?' Then he became aggressive. I was convinced he was going to do something to me.

"I gave the police a description over the phone but they said because he left the premises they were not going to come around in person."

The thief first came to the attention of the police on November 15 when he stole the takings from the cash till at Orchid Florists.

Shop owner Melanie Mohidin has installed CCTV and now keeps a hockey stick and an alarm behind the counter.

She said: "I think the police are taking too long to get him. If they had reacted quicker it would have prevented the others becoming more of his victims."

Despite the similarities in the cases Highgate Safer Neighbourhoods police team leader Sergeant Leon Christodolou is not convinced they are hunting just one offender.

He said: "One of the victims who knows the man we are after believes he is not the same one who came into her shop, so we are back to square one.

"It's not as simple as going around showing people photos of who we think it is.

"In a case like this, everything has to be done by the book otherwise he will eventually get away with it in court."

Anyone with information about the incidents is asked to call Sgt Christodolou on 020-8721 2673.

ben.mcpartland@hamhigh.co.uk


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