A “hypnotist thief” apparently put the owner of an off-licence in a trance before rifling through his trouser pockets and stealing the day’s takings. Friends have said Aftab Haider, 56, the owner of independent wine merchants Hops and Pops in Highgate, north London, was “stunned” by the theft of hundreds of pounds in cash. The raid mirrors techniques used as entertainment by street magicians and is the first time its use in crime has been captured on CCTV in the UK. The suspect, an Eastern European man wearing a black bomber jacket, brushed past Mr Haider as he placed a bottle on a shelf, and gently tapped him on the arm. A few seconds later, the suspect made a stabbing gesture with his right hand at eye-level which appeared to leave Mr Haider, known as Aziz, mesmerised.
He reached inside the motionless shop owner’s trouser pocket, and pulled out his wallet before briefly squeezing his shoulder.
The thief, who kept up a quietly-spoken patter throughout, then mimed the gesture of a pregnant woman’s belly as Mr Haider turned to face him.
He reached into his other pocket and pulled out the day’s takings, hundreds of pounds in a bundle of notes, before tapping him once more on the shoulder and quickly walking out.
Mr Haider snapped out of the trance a few seconds later, and shouted “Oi, oi, excuse me...” as the suspect pushed past another customer and hurried off into Archway Road.
Scotland Yard have now released the shop’s CCTV footage which captured the bizarre incident at around 9.45pm on September 11.
A friend of Mr Haider said: “We had no idea Aziz had been hypnotised. When he told me what happened I just thought, how could he have just let someone hug him and start going through his pockets?
He said he just suddenly realised the man had stolen from him and ran out of the shop to find him but he got away.
He had hundreds of pounds stolen from him. It’s worrying if people can do that, other people might do the same.”
Detective Sergeant Dave Bullock said: “The victim remained motionless and unable to stop the robbery taking place. He said that he was momentarily unaware of what had happened to him.
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“The suspect’s distraction tactics appeared to have worked as he robbed the victim of cash from his pocket.“
Magician Damien O’Brien suggested the Mr Haider may have been previously hypnotised by the man to implant “trigger” words into his subconscious, suggesting the suspect had visited the shop in advance.
He said: “You can never hypnotise someone on the first go, you warm them up. I would have thought he has already gone in there before and done some pre-suggestive stuff.
He may have said on an earlier visit that the next time he comes in and touches the man on the shoulder he is going to go into a relaxed trance and will let him go into his pockets.
The shoulder touch could be a trigger.”