BY YANN TEAR
A prolific thief who stole valuables from distracted airport and railway passengers has been jailed for two years and four months.
His activities were unmasked by a vigilant member of staff at Heathrow Airport, but another of the areas in which he operated was busy Paddington railway station.
Isleworth Crown Court heard how Kiberom Fikadu, 31, of no fixed abode, was caught by police after an employee at the central bus station, next to Heathrow Airport, reported saw him acting suspiciously on January 10.
Investigating officer, PC Barry Munnelly, of the Met’s Aviation Policing Command, said: “Fikadu looked for people who were either reading, busy chatting or eating, and helped himself to their belongings.
“His actions are a reminder of the importance of staying alert and keeping your possessions in sight at all times when you are travelling.”
Through tenacious investigation, PC Munnelly and his team identified that Fikadu was responsible for a number of thefts at Heathrow Airport, Paddington station – and also on a train in Sussex.
In CCTV footage released by police, Fikadu can be seen stealing a bag at a coffee shop in the arrivals section of Heathrow Airport on January 3.
The victim places her bag on the seat next to her and turns her back. While she is eating, Fikadu places his coat over her bag and gradually pulls the chair away from the table before boldly walking out with her bag – containing her passport and purse – hidden under his jacket.
PC Munnelly was one of a number of officers to attend the Central Bus Station on January 10 after receiving the call from the concerned staff member, who thought Fikadu was about to steal a bag.
When PC Munnelly arrived, he found Fikadu attempting to hide behind a newspaper and almost immediately recognised him as a man caught on CCTV stealing a suitcase from Heathrow Airport on January 4.
The officers searched Fikadu and found he was carrying two passports which had that month been reported as stolen. He was also carrying a lock knife, two laptops and cannabis.
The officers arrested him on suspicious of theft, possession of a bladed article and possession of a Class B drug.
Fikadu pleaded guilty to two of the offences but pleaded not guilty to theft of the passports and the suitcase.
Meanwhile, the Aviation Policing Command set about investigating where the laptops had come from, using the serial numbers on them to identify they had been reported as stolen from a coffee shop at Heathrow Airport on January 9 and from a female patron at a pub at Paddington station on December 11 last year.
In the latter case, the victim reported being followed into the pub by a man who sat opposite her at a table.
While she read her newspaper, he pulled her bag – containing her laptop – towards him under the table before covering it with a newspaper of his own and walking out.
They also identified Fikadu as the culprit of the theft of a wallet from a man on a train in Sussex on January 6 after viewing CCTV in which Fikadu was caught accidentally leaving the wallet behind at a money exchange shop at Heathrow Airport the following day.
The wallet had been retained by diligent staff who realised that the driving licence photo of the owner of the wallet was not the same as Fikadu, and called the police.
On February 18, officers further charged Fikadu with the theft of the laptops and handling stolen goods – namely the wallet. He pleaded guilty to these offences at north-west London Magistrates’ Court on February 22.
On February 27, after refusing to leave his prison cell, Fikadu was found guilty of the thefts of the passport and suitcase. One count of theft of a mobile phone was dismissed.
Speaking after sentencing, PC Munnelly said: “Each of Fikadu’s thefts caused distress and disruption to the victims. I am pleased that we have been able to bring him to justice.”