A Sheriff delivered a harsh warning to criminals targeting small shops in the Highlands by jailing a woman for 16 months.
A group of women travelled north to carry out a series of thefts where staff would be distracted by some while others helped themselves to high value goods.
Sheriff Margaret Neilson told 31-year-old Mariora Pihodi from Northampton: “This sort of targeted distraction theft is a particular problem in this jurisdiction. People like you travel long distances and prey on small shopkeepers in small towns and villages, where people are often more trusting.
“Then you betray their trust. Given your appalling record and number of previous prison sentences you have served, only a custodial sentence is appropriate.”
Pihodi admitted stealing jewellery worth £2,260 from Iain Marr Antiques in Beauly on July 26 last year and a day later, stealing a gold Rolex watch valued at £7,900 from Imray’s Jewellers in Grantown-on-Spey. Nothing has been recovered.
Inverness Sheriff Court heard that the theft had a “devastating effect on Mr Marr’s health” and he now suffered panic attacks.
Fiscal depute Robert Weir told the court that Pihodi had moved to Luton before she was arrested in August this year. He said that she was acting with other women when they all entered Mr Marr’s shop.
“He asked them to stop handling items however they continued to do so arousing his suspicions.” Mr Weir said.
Mr Marr produced 10 rings which one woman tried on one by one while Pihodi and her accomplices wandered round the shop before leaving. Mr Marr reviewed his CCTV and noticed that several items were missing. They included three watches, three pendants, neck chains, two rings and a quantity of fobs.
The following day Pihodi and another woman went into Imray’s and Pihodi asked to see two Rolex watches. She produced £1,160 in cash and while it was being counted. Pihodi kicked up a fuss about the packaging to be used for wrapping and began to rewrap the items themselves.
During the turmoil, the women walked out, taking one of the Rolex watches with them. A third accomplice was waiting outside and the trio disappeared before the theft was detected.
Defence solicitor Manus Tolland conceded his client was “no stranger to shoplifting” but usually small items and she was astonished at the value.
“The background here is her ex-partner who was of a violent disposition. At his command, she joined in this group to travel to Scotland. She did not benefit and has been left carrying the can.
“But she had ample opportunity to leave and she chose not to do so. Her ex-partner now cannot be traced.” Mr Tolland added.