Crying woman caught trying to flee after UK-wide ‘Rolex ripper’ gang crime wave

A woman from an infamous gang known as the ‘Rolex Rippers’ attempted to steal a £10,000 watch from a man but was caught teary-eyed while attempting to flee the country.

Stefania Tinica is the first member of the group, behind dozens of distraction thefts of men’s designer watches across the country, to be convicted.

In one of the incidents, which took place on January 3 last year by a golf club in Cheshire, the 40-year-old Romanian national and an accomplice approached victim Simon Kelly and tried to take his Rolex Submariner watch, worth £10,000.

However, Simon managed to break free and pushed one of the pair away before they fled, WalesOnline reports.

Police recovered DNA from Mr Kelly’s wrist and managed to identify Tinica as the assailant, but they were unable to trace her. On May 30 she struck for a second time 250 miles away in Bingham Avenue, near to the exclusive Parkstone Golf Club in Poole, Dorset.

Her 75-year-old victim was walking down the road when Tinica stopped him. She suddenly put her arms around him and tried to grab his arm to get him to touch her.

The pensioner broke free and saw her get into a car before realising his £15,930 Rolex Submariner timepiece was missing.

Police identified Tinica from CCTV footage obtained from a nearby property but the watch was never recovered. She was eventually arrested last November while trying to board a plane at Luton Airport.

The organised crime gang, believed to be made up of mostly Eastern European women, are thought to have carried out more than 30 near-identical thefts across southern England last year. In most cases the victims were men of a certain age who were wearing designer watches on their exposed wrists.

Thefts took place in counties including Dorset, Hampshire, West Sussex, Surrey and Gloucestershire as well as the one in Cheshire. It is not known whether Tinica was linked to any of other crime. She was only charged with involvement in two incidents.

She pleaded guilty to robbery and attempted robbery and was jailed for 40 months at Chester Crown Court. The Home Office said they do not comment on individual cases but the Home Secretary is required by law to deport any foreign national who receives a custodial sentence of at least 12 months unless a specific exemption applies.

Tinica’s victim in the robbery in Poole’s Canford Cliffs said today that he was glad she had been caught. The retired City finance worker said he and his brothers had bought themselves the limited edition 50th anniversary submariner watches and despite going to great lengths he had not been able to replace it.

He said: “I consider myself very lucky that she has been caught. The insurance company were great and the police were very good too but I’m p****d off I lost the watch.

“I wore it every day, it was sentimental to me. But I’ve been to every shop imaginable trying to find one and they just looked at me like I was an idiot.

“Now I just have a Swatch that cost me £83. I’m definitely more wary now, the place where it happened was the last place you would expect it, it’s a very quiet road.”

Alan Bruce, a 64-year-old marine engineer, lost his £14,000 Rolex when two women posed as charity workers to distract him in Wimborne, Dorset, on July 15. After being shown a photo of Tinica he confirmed that she was not one of them.

Other victims of the Rolex Rippers include retired wine merchant Derek Freestone, 77, who had his £12,500 Rolex Oyster stolen in Emsworth, West Sussex, on July 7 and retired pilot Michael Parry, 84, who had his £15,000 Rolex stolen by a woman posing as a charity worker outside his local supermarket in Bourton-on-the-water, Gloucs.

Robin Haycock was targeted for his £20,000 Rolex Daytona in the car park at Ferndown Golf Club, Dorset, on July 17. And Richard Gray, 79, lost his £8,000 Rolex after two women distracted him outside his home in Canford Cliffs, Poole, in October.

Hampshire Police reported in December that they were investigating more than 30 incidents of victims targeted for high value watches just in their county alone. Dorset Police said no further arrests had been made in connection with their other similar cases.