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As reported in Antiques Trade Gazette No 1623, January 24, the British Antique Dealers’ Association had issued a description of a woman, operating under a number of names, who had taken in dealers in Kensington Church Street and the Fulham Road with her educated accent and smart clothes. In most cases the woman – who is black, about 5ft 8in tall, in her fifties, and wears a mink coat – sought to gain dealers’ confidence by spending up to three or four hours in a shop discussing potential purchases.

Having chosen pieces and arranged to have them forwarded, she then either writes cheques, uses a credit card or promises to wire money from her bank account the next day. Only when she has left (or when no payment is made) do the dealers realise that an easily concealed item of stock has gone.

Police think she changes identity frequently, often assuming the name of a previous victim whose credit card or purse she may have stolen. Recently, she struck in Pimlico Road, posing as singer Gloria Gaynor and the niece of music star Barry White, showing great enthusiasm for high-value art and antiques. PC Jennifer Williams of Belgravia CID can be contacted about the case on 0207 321 6806.