LONDON — British police are hunting for a thief who was caught on surveillance video putting a shopkeeper into a "trance" before picking his pockets. The suspect was seen repeatedly touching the arm and chest of 56-year-old victim Aftab Haider and making a series of gestures that appeared to render him unable to move. With Haider seemingly spellbound, the suspect took his wallet and the day's takings before leaving the Hops and Pops store in north London less than 50 seconds later.
The victim was "momentarily totally unaware of what has happened to him," Detective Sgt. Dave Bullock of London's Metropolitan Police said. "The suspect's distraction tactics seemed to have put him into a trance leaving him open to be robbed." Detective Chief Inspector Marco Bardetti told NBC News: "We have spoken to experts in the hypnosis field and it appears to have been some sort of parlor trick. It’s the first crime I’ve seen of its kind."
Police said the suspect told Haider his wife was pregnant and she needed some bottled water. The incident, which happened on September 11 but was only made public by police on Friday, caused the London Evening Standard newspaper to speculate whether the victim had been hypnotized. Asked if this was the case, Haider's wife, who asked not to be named, told NBC News: "We don't know. My husband is a very compassionate man and he was listening to a sob story from this person very late at night. We not quite sure what happened at this point."