Purse thief jailed and banned from Leeds city centre for preying on elderly victims

A purse thief who preyed on elderly women has been locked up and banned from Leeds city centre for five years.

Samantha Varley targeted vulnerable victims in pubs, a McDonald's restaurant and a Greggs bakery during a spate of offending.

Varley has a "formidable" criminal record dating back more than 20 years.

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The 40-year-old mother-of-three carried out her latest offences during 2017 and 2018 in Leeds city centre.

Samantha Varley stole from vulnerable elderly woman in Leeds city centre

Ken Green, prosecuting, said Varley stole a purse belonging to a 78-year-old woman in McDonald's, on Briggate, on July 5, 2017.

The defendant went onto the first flood after ordering food and sat close to the victim.

Varley placed her coat over the woman's handbag before reaching inside it and taking the purse.

The victim noticed the purse was missing after Varley had left.

Mr Green said she was left deeply distressed as the purse contained sentimental photographs.

A 90-year-old woman was targeted in the Picture House pub, Merrion Street, on July 7, 2017.

CCTV footage showed Varley stealing the woman's bag when she left her table to go to the toilet.

The bag contained cash and keys. The victim was so distressed she felt unable to go into Leeds city centre for two months.

Varley carried out a similar offence at the Picture House on April 23, 2018.

She stole a bag which contained a purse, bank cards and a book which contained pin numbers.

Varley managed to use the bank cards to withdraw £2,000 from the victim's account.

The defendant stole a bag from a woman in Beckett's Bank, Park Row, on July 25, 2018.

She took bank cards from the bag and used them to buy £60 worth of items from Tesco and Sainsbury's

A 62-year-old woman had her bag stolen by Varley in a Greggs bakery on August 13, 2018.

The bag contained cash and valuables worth £500. Bank cards from the bag were also used at a Superdrug store.

Varley, of Strathmore Avenue, Harehills, Leeds, pleaded guilty to four counts of theft, four of fraud and failing to surrender to custody.

Stephen Smithson, mitigating, said Varley committed the offences to fund a long-standing addiction to heroin.

Mr Smithson said Varley pleaded guilty to the offences at an early stage and accepted she would be facing a jail sentence because of her criminal record.

Varley was jailed for two-and-a-half-years.

She was also made the subject of a criminal behaviour order banning her from entering Leeds city centre for the next five years.

Judge Geoffrey Marson, QC, said: "You have a dreadful record for stealing from shops and for stealing from people."

"Unhappily and seriously, you targeted the elderly and vulnerable to steal from them in a sophisticated way."