Smooth-talking ‘customer’ paved way for jewelry shop heist at SM NorthBy Julie M. Aurelio
Philippine Daily Inquirer
MANILA, Philippines — It took only five minutes for one of the robbers who staged a daring heist at the SM North Edsa mall in Quezon City to smooth-talk a saleslady into letting him try on some pieces of jewelry as his cohorts got ready for the heist.
The “customer” even lingered around the jewelry displays at the mall’s department store before finally beckoning to a sales clerk for “assistance.”
“The man first pretended to be looking at the jewelry on sale, then he asked a saleslady for help in inspecting gold jewelry that he wanted to buy,” said the case investigator, Police Officer 3 Erickson Isidro.
Following the Sunday night heist at the stalls of the F and C Jewels and The Jewel at the mall’s department store, the Quezon City Police District released a more defined sketch of the robber who posed as a customer prior to the robbery.
The composite computerized sketch was based on the description by the sales lady who personally attended to him, and a woman nearby.
Contrary to earlier reports, the suspect did not wear a cap but a black jacket over a red shirt and jeans, Isidro said.
The man was 5’3″ to 5’5″ tall, of medium build, was dark skinned and around 24 to 39 years old.
The suspect is believed to be part of a seven-man group that carried out the heist by smashing the two stores’ display cases and scooping up some of the jewelry.
Before the robbery, the “customer” was seen lingering by the jewelry displays, eventually approaching a sales lady for help.
Citing the sales clerk’s account, Isidro said the man first asked about a gold ring that he wanted to try on.
“The man pretended to try it on his finger for size, and then pointed to a gold bracelet that he wanted to try on,” the case investigator said.
But the sales clerk told him that she could not let him try on both items at the same time, to which the man said: “But I am going to buy all of them anyway.”
Isidro said the man eventually relented and returned the ring to the sales lady. The ring was later found in its display case.
Aside from the gold ring and bracelet, the man also tried on a gold necklace, which he also returned to the woman.
It was at this point that a man wearing a striped shirt approached him and whispered something in his ear.
Seconds later, the two men began smashing the display cases of the F and C Jewels and The Jeweller with a hammer and a crowbar, which were bought at the department store and abandoned later.
The robbers did not take all of the jewelry inside the display cases, with at least half left behind.
Chief Inspector Rodelio Marcelo, head of the QCPD’s Criminal Investigation and Detection Unit, said the brief interaction between the two men showed the collusion of the “customer” with the robbers.
Police also clarified that none of the gold jewelry that the “customer” tried on was taken.
Two men served as lookouts while the other five carried out the robbery.
Meanwhile, the QCPD is conducting “back-tracking” investigation of similar robberies in the past in other cities in Metro Manila.
Insp. Alan dela Cruz, theft and robbery section head, said his operatives have coordinated with the Mandaluyong police station and the Manila Police District where robberies with the same modus operandi took place.
“We are checking the records of the arrested suspects to see if these are our guys caught on the SM mall’s surveillance cameras,” the police official said.
The QCPD earlier said it has been considering the possibility that the robbers at the SM North Edsa heist were ones who robbed the same jewelry stores in SM Megamall in Mandaluyong City in January.
Dela Cruz explained that aside from the same ploy of smashing the jewelry displays with metal objects, the same stores – F and C Jewels and The Jeweller – were also victimized on the night of January 26.
He added that based on the surveillance camera snapshots from the two robberies, the faces of two suspects were seen in both heists.
Isidro said they have requested the SM North Edsa management to provide them with the complete footages and different angles of the crime scene, as well as the possible escape routes that the suspects took.
The shops have not yet released an official estimate of the worth of the stolen jewelry, he added.