No sympathy from 'professional' thief the professionals

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SYMPATHY was a word that did not find its way into the vocabulary of Edward Vickers, professional thief (retired), writes Martin Whitfield.

The only time he thought of his victims in a career spanning more than 40 years was when he felt he had out- witted attempts to prevent his entry. 'I said to myself, 'They will get a shock when they get back',' he said.

Mr Vickers, 53, would travel widely for his crimes from his home in Sheffield. He did his first buglary at the age of 11. Seven custodial sentences and 17 criminal convictions did not halt 'hundreds' of burglaries.

Seventeen years were spent in prison or in custody until he was released following a seven-year sentence in 1986. He has been arrested 12 times since that date but has not been convicted.

'It was a job, a trade. I have done everything, commercial property, but I specialised in houses,' he said.

Armed with an engineering screwdriver, Mr Vickers maintained he did not damage property and always worked with the intention of being in and out of a house as quickly as possible - 'I don't want to be wasting time. Most houses can be done within 10 minutes,' he said.

Information on specific houses would be passed on by informants, for the properties to be burgled to order, or Mr Vickers would tour an area 'on spec'. Goods would then be sold to three or four reliable 'fences'.

Even dogs were not a deterrent. 'Most dogs are lonely during the day and would come up to me wagging their tails,' he said. 'I would take them to the fridge and give them something to eat.'