SIX elderly people have had cash stolen from them in a bizarre scam involving a thief distracting them with tomato ketchup.

The victims - aged between 60 and 90 - all had their purses and wallets stolen after visiting a bank branch or cashpoint.

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Police said in each case a man has approached a ‘vulnerable’ victim shortly after they have left a bank branch, applying tomato ketchup to the back of their clothes without them being aware.

A short time later he has started talking to them, telling them they are bleeding and attempting to help with tissues to wipe the ‘blood’ away.

Once the ketchup has been removed the victims have later found that their purses and wallets had been stolen.

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The thief has struck six times between Wednesday, May 9 to Tuesday, May 15, with one incident happening each day apart from on Saturday, May 12. The incidents have all happened in Accrington town centre close to bank branches in the Union Street and Peel Street areas.

Police have not revealed the amounts of cash that have been stolen.

The suspect is described as around 50-years-old, tanned, of average height and is said to speak with an Eastern European accent.

Officers have released a CCTV image of a man they want to speak to.

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PCSO James Southworth, of the Accrington town centre neighbourhood policing team, said: “We have had six incidents in seven days where we believe the suspect is deliberately targeting elderly people leaving banks by applying the ketchup to look like blood.

“They have all been older people, both men and women, with the youngest in their 60s and the eldest aged 90.

“The victims I have spoken to say they were originally shocked and concerned because the man makes out that they are bleeding so they are worried they have been injured.

“They are then understandably very angry and embarrassed that they are the victims of the scam.”

Anyone with information or who recognises the man in the picture is asked to contact PCSO 7672 James Southworth on 01254 353135