A hotel sneak thief who preyed on wealthy tourists as they tucked into their breakfast was caught out by his shiny bald head, a court heard.
Mark Walker, 48, stole £25,000 in cash and valuables from guests staying in 15 hotels across Westminster, Kensington and Chelsea between September 2018 and March this year.
He targeted victims at breakfast because they were least likely to be on their guard and often left bags unattended when they went to the buffet.
When police examined hours CCTV footage from hotels they started spotting the same man with the light reflecting off his shaved scalp, Isleworth Crown Court heard.
Mark Walker on the job
PC Tom Blair said: ‘When we played CCTV of the thefts, we found the culprit was very distinctive – he had a bald head, wore the same clothes and held the same green carrier bag on each occasion.
All the offences took place over the breakfast period, between 6am and 9.30am.
‘Walker wasn’t a diner. He went into the restaurants with the sole purpose of targeting people who left their belongings unattended and used his jacket to cover up customers’ bags before lifting them from the tables and chairs where they’d been left.’
One woman was stuck in the UK without her passport after she fell victim to Walker and another was left without her diabetes medication.
Police discovered he also stole a rucksack from a departures area at Heathrow Airport while wearing the same clothes he had worn for his previous jobs.
Ten plain clothes officers lay in wait at a number of hotel restaurants around Heathrow on the morning of 26 March this year at ambush Walker.
Walker turned up at a hotel and tried to run off as officers moved in but was chased and arrested.
PC Blair said: ‘Lo and behold, he walked into one of the hotels, no doubt intending to nick another bag, but it was we who nicked him.’
The officer added ‘When you’re having breakfast, your mind is probably on the day ahead and not on whether there is an opportunist thief in the room with you. But the sad reality is that some people will make the most of your distraction for their own gain.
‘It’s not just valuables that are taken. One victim’s bag, containing her passport, was taken by Walker on the day she was due to fly out, causing her significant stress as she had to obtain an emergency travel document.
‘Another woman who was diabetic had her blood monitoring kit taken by Walker.
‘My advice to anyone dining out is to keep your valuables with you at all times, because a moment is all it takes for an opportunist to steal your property.’
Police identified two further thefts carried out by Walker in Westminster and Kensington and Chelsea, to which he pleaded guilty on 25 April.
He also stole from two women at a hotel in Lambeth, grabbing their handbags which contained money and a pair of gloves which were of sentimental value to one of the victims.
Walker pleaded guilty to these thefts on 14 May.
Walker, of no fixed address, admitted 21 counts of theft and one of attempted theft.
He was jailed for two years and two months.