POLICE investigating a distraction theft outside a supermarket have appealed for help to identify a man whose image was captured on CCTV.

A woman in her 70s discovered more than £4,000 had been spent on her bank cards after her purse was stolen as she put shopping into her car outside Tesco in Ferndown.

The victim, a local woman, left the Penny's Walk store at around 4pm on Friday, June 14 and put her shopping in her car.

After returning her trolley she was approached by a well-dressed man in the car park who told her that her vehicle may have been damaged in a fail-to-stop collision.

As she went round the car to inspect the damage, the man walked the other way around the vehicle.

The woman did not notice anything untoward until the following day, when she received a call from her bank querying some transactions on her card. It was then she realised her purse was missing and she had not seen it since she was at Tesco the previous day.

It was later discovered that three of the victim’s cards had been used to carry out a number of withdrawals and transactions at various locations in Dorset and Southampton.

The total value spent on the cards was more than £4,000.

Police Community Support Investigator Kate Hann, of Dorset Police, said: “Following our enquiries, it is believed the man who had approached the victim in the car park had previously been close to the woman as she paid for items in the store.

“We have received a number of reports of similar distraction thefts both in Dorset and from other forces and I would urge people to be vigilant when shopping.

“Always keep your bag or purse close to you and ensure your PIN is not visible to anyone else when you are paying for items.”

Anyone with information is asked to contact Dorset Police on 101, quoting occurrence number 55190090426.

Alternatively, members of the public can contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111 or via crimestoppers-uk.org