A thief apparently put a shopkeeper in a hypnotic trance before stealing the day’s takings at a store in Highgate, north London.
Security footage shows the man, wearing black bomber jacket, gently tapping shop owner Aftab Haider – who is known to friends as Aziz – on the arm, before making a stabbing gesture with his hand at eye level that appears to leave Mr Haider in a trance.
The man then reaches inside the shopkeeper’s trouser pocket, pulling out his wallet. He then squeezes his shoulder before miming the gesture of a pregnant woman’s belly before Mr Haider turns to face him, at which point he reaches into his other pocket and takes hundreds of pounds in cash.
He then quickly walks out the shop before Mr Haider releases what has happened.
A friend of Mr Haider told the London Evening Standard: “We had no idea Aziz had been hypnotised. When he told me what happened I just thought, how could he have just let someone hug him and start going through his pockets?
“He said he just suddenly realised the man had stolen from him and ran out of the shop to find him but he got away. He had hundreds of pounds stolen from him. It’s worrying if people can do that, other people might do the same.”
Detective Sergeant Dave Bullock of London’s Metropolitan Police said: “The victim remained motionless and unable to stop the robbery taking place. He said that he was momentarily unaware of what had happened to him.
“The suspect’s distraction tactics appeared to have worked as he robbed the victim of cash from his pocket.”
Hypnotherapist Jack Raymond said that there is little doubt the man is a “very slick, competent and practiced” hypnotist.
“This is someone who could have learnt it from a book or on the internet,” he said. “But he would have practiced considerably. He would have done this before. It could have taken him weeks but likely months to perfect. It takes some people many years.”
Police said the suspect is 30-35 years old, of Eastern European appearance, around 5ft 8in tall, slim and with short black hair. He wore dark jeans, a grey polo shirt and a black bomber jacket.