A shaken pensioner has told of the terrifying moment her bag was snatched by a brazen mugger – just yards from her suburban home.
Great-grandmother Elizabeth Audrey, from Musselburgh, was walking along Inveresk Brae when a man she thought was out jogging grabbed her handbag and ran off down the street.
And when the 78-year-old turned to a stranger on a bicycle to ask for help, she was shocked to find him working in tandem with the thief.
The incident came as police announced the launch of a major investigation – dubbed Operation Formby – following a spate of robberies in Musselburgh targeting elderly women, culminating in the assault of an 82-year-old last night.
The pensioner was pushed to the ground and her handbag and shopping bag stolen in a lane near Brunton Hall at 5.20pm.
In an incident last week, a 90-year-old managed to fight off her assailant by clobbering him over the head with her handbag.
Speaking from her home yesterday, Mrs Audrey said the robbery had left her nervous and afraid.
She said: “It was quite scary. I’m still nervous when I go out. They are going for old people.
“It’s when there’s no lights there that it’s quite threatening. Nobody is safe while these people are around.”
But the pensioner revealed the hapless thieves only managed to make off with an empty handbag full of scrunched up plastic bags, Christmas cards and her bus pass.
“I came up from the bus stop and I heard someone running up the road, but I didn’t think anything of it,” she said.
“The next thing I know, he had grabbed my bag and turned and ran. I turned to a guy on a bike and I asked him if he could go after him and get my bag back, but he was one of them as well.”
Officers are linking at least six incidents in Musselburgh over the last eight weeks in their drive to clamp down on robberies in the area.
Detective Constable Steven McCormick, who is leading Operation Formby, said: “These incidents have been ongoing for several weeks now and we are extremely concerned that another attack may result in a serious injury to the victim.
“We are going to target these individuals committing these horrendous crimes. In the coming weeks we will be checking CCTV from East Lothian Council, and we are also considering asking victims to complete e-fits.”
A spokesman for Age Scotland praised police for attempting to combat the “worrying” crimes.
He said: “It is encouraging news that Police Scotland are taking this matter seriously and have launched a dedicated operation to track down the perpetrator of these worrying crimes. We would encourage all members of the public to be vigilant and to report any suspicious activity to Police Scotland.”