Police are warning people to be vigilant after a Rotorua pensioner's handbag was stolen from her car as she took her shopping trolley to a supermarket trolley bay.
Ian and Robynne Bushett were driving into the Pak'n'Save carpark about 4.45pm on Thursday when they noticed a rough-looking man running out of bushes between the carpark and Shambles Theatre and opening the door of a woman's car.
Mr Bushett said they thought it was a bit odd as they realised the woman had just unloaded her groceries into her boot and put her handbag inside the car.
"We thought it was a bit unusual he came from the bushes." The man noticed them looking and put a cellphone to his ear, pretending he was talking on it, Mr Bushett said.
He ran off back through the bushes moments later with a handbag under his arm.
"He scarpered out of there."
Driving on to avoid a traffic jam, the couple backed around and asked the woman if she was missing anything.
Her handbag was gone. So Mr Bushett drove around looking for the thief but was unable to find him or the missing handbag, he said.
The elderly woman was devastated, he told The Daily Post.
"She was in shock. Her whole life was in that handbag. She said she had medicine and make-up, credit cards and cheques and a small amount of cash in it. For her, though, it would have been a huge amount."
Mr Bushett is appalled by the behaviour of the thief who he described as about 152cm tall, of slim build with dark to greying hair, of Maori descent and in his late 40s.
"He's a predator. He sat in wait for his chance. He's the lowest of the low as far as I'm concerned. He's a selfish person who looks for any opportunity without any thought for the person he is stealing from or their circumstances. I hope they catch him."
Police were called.
Rotorua police Sergeant Nicky Riordan said police were still investigating and no one had been arrested but it was a timely reminder to people to stay vigilant by carrying valuables on them or keeping them out of sight when placing them in their vehicles.