DETECTIVES are appealing for information following a distraction burglary in south Essex.

The crime took place in Hockley when a man knocked on the front door of a residential property on Merryfields Avenue at 2pm on Tuesday and offered to clean the building’s gutters for a price. The elderly couple agreed, but when the work was completed the price had doubled.

As the couple were distracted, the man stole a three-figure sum of cash, pension money, from an envelope which had been left in the lounge. The man left the couple, stating that he needed to go to a nearby DIY store to get some equipment to fix a wardrobe door.

Investigating Officer, Dc Shelley Utley, said: "Once the bill had doubled, the suspect agreed to fix a wardrobe door, but then left the woman holding the door after he had taken it off its hinges and then asked the man to obtain a screwdriver. It was during this period that the money was taken.

"This is an unscrupulous thief who knew what he was doing and who he was targeting. This man could strike again at someone else’s parents or grandparents and we don’t want that to happen.

"We want him arrested, but do need the help of people who either saw him at the property on Tuesday afternoon or who recognise him from the description provided.”

The thief is described as white, aged in his early 30s, is of thick set, has short dark hair which is slightly wavy on top and is approximately 5ft 11ins tall.

At the time he was wearing a dark woolly, buttoned coat, dark jeans, workman’s beige boots; but later changed into a dark cardigan and black trainers. He drove off in a white van which has a bright-red thick stripe running along the bottom.

Anyone with information in connection with this burglary is urged to contact detectives at Southend police station on 101 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.