‘You’ve restored my faith’ says surprised crime victim

The Oxford Times: Crime reduction expert Nick Gilbert hands over the laptop he received after an appeal on his LinkedIn profile to crime victim Sylvia Neatham Buy this photo » Crime reduction expert Nick Gilbert hands over the laptop he received after an appeal on his LinkedIn profile to crime victim Sylvia Neatham

WHEN a thief pinched hundreds of pounds from disabled pensioner Sylvia Neatham she no longer felt safe in her own town.

But her faith in humanity has been restored after a stranger came forward to help after reading her story, that was featured in the Oxford Mail.

Mrs Neatham was out on her mobility scooter in Witney and had taken the cash out of her bank when a woman distracted her and stole £770 in cash.

The 67-year-old, who has suffered a heart attack and two strokes, had intended to buy a computer to keep in contact with her family over the winter.

And after reading the story former police crime reduction expert Nick Gilbert sent out a plea to all his business contacts.

He said: “I was really quite incensed by it so I thought I am going to do something about it.”

Mr Gilbert, 50, who worked for Thames Valley Police until last year, said: “Having worked with the police for so many years you actually get quite hardened to a lot of things, but one of the things police hate the most is distraction theft.

“It could be your mum or your grandma. It’s a heinous crime. It’s one of the worst that can happen. It’s taking advantage of the vulnerable.”

Mr Gilbert, who now runs his own security consultancy firm from Witney, said Mrs Neatham had broken into tears when he told her someone had offered to give her a computer, adding: “She couldn’t believe it.”

He posted the appeal on his LinkedIn profile and seeing it through a third party, Ben Crook from London got in touch to say he wanted to donate a laptop he bought nine years ago for £600.

The 26-year-old said: “It was a considerable amount of money to be stolen. For anyone to take it away from someone so vulnerable is disgusting. There is no other word for it.”

Mrs Neatham was in hospital for 11 weeks and had three operations after her first stroke four years ago.

Last night the mother-of-two, of Blakes Avenue, said she was “gobsmacked” at the gift and said it had restored her confidence and faith in the community.

She said: “It’s the opposite of what happened to me.

“Somebody took something of mine and somebody – who does not know me from Adam – has put himself out to do some good.”

She added: “In the winter, I cannot get out very much because of the weather more than anything.

“I will be able to talk to my family now and winter will be easier for me.”

Police last month released a CCTV image of a woman they would like to speak to in connection with the theft, which happened in Witan Way just before 3pm on Tuesday, August 13.

Police said the suspect had dark hair, spoke poor English and has asked for change. No arrests had been made as of yesterday.

Anyone with information should call Pc Katherine Giles on 101.

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