A woman dubbed the Pickpocket Queen of Birmingham - is back behind bars again after preying on elderly women shopping in the city.
Margaret Johnson has 153 offences to her name, including 93 for theft, but her latest crimes have “stooped to new lows" according to the specialist West Midlands Police pickpocketing team which has brought her to justice.
Johnson’s most recent bag-snatch victims include a 76-year-old woman shopping in Lidl’s Tile Cross store on February 2 with her grandson who has Down's Syndrome.
The 40-year-old was caught on security cameras stalking the pair around the aisles - and when the pensioner had her back turned Johnson stepped in to swipe the handbag from inside a shopping trolley.
Officers said it left the woman devastated as, along with cash and bank cards, the bag also contained a glass eye that belonged to her son who was killed in a car crash 30 years ago - and which she’d carried around with her ever since.
Johnson was caught by a member of the Birmingham city centre police team in the Bullring on February 8 - an area she is banned from under the conditions of a Criminal Behaviour Order (CBO).
She appeared at Birmingham Crown Court on Friday where she was jailed for two-and-a-half years after admitting six thefts - including against a heavily pregnant woman and others aged 80 and 84 - as well as breaching the CBO.
Sergeant Julia Slater, said: “It’s hard to find words to describe Margaret Johnson. She is someone who thinks absolutely nothing about preying on the most vulnerable people in society and stealing money from them that they can ill-afford to lose.
“She deliberately targets elderly, lone female shoppers - people she considers easy targets - and when an opportunity arises she slyly swipes their bags or slips purses or mobile phones from pockets.
“Even by her own despicable standards she has stooped to new lows with these offences.
“She has been given ample opportunity to change her ways but refuses to engage with our offender management teams and throws offers of support back in our faces. Shoppers in the city are much safer with Johnson in prison."
Johnson was released on prison licence on 18 January this year but within just six days was back to her old habits.
On 24 January she struck at Lidl, in Mackadown Lane, Tile Cross, and made off with a 60-year-old woman’s handbag - and less than an hour later pinched a mobile phone from the jacket pocket of another shopper in Chelmsley Wood’s Asda supermarket.
The next day she repeated the bag snatch trick on an 84-year-old lady in Aldi in Castle Bromwich and 24 hours later fled from Home Bargains in Stechford Retail Park with a pregnant woman’s phone.
Her final bag-snatch victim - a lady aged 80 - was shopping in B&M Bargains in Priory Queensway, on February 6 when Johnson pounced.
Her latest conviction also came with a CBO banning her from large parts of Birmingham city centre and from stores such as Poundland, Clarkes, Iceland and Asda across the whole of the West Midlands.
Sergeant Slater, added: “Breaching the Order is a criminal offence. If any of our officers spot her in an area or store where she’s excluded from then she’ll be arrested and faces being sent back to prison."
Birmingham Police’s Pickpocket Team is the only such specialist theft unit in the UK outside London and sees undercover officers posing as shoppers on the look-out for thieves, aggressive begging and suspicious activity.Subscribe to our Newsletter