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‘Oliver Twist carol singers out to burgle house or two’

A GANG of girls have been singing carols to distract residents while accomplices look for ways to break into their homes, it has been claimed.

The Oliver Twist-style group, aged about 11, are said to knock on doors and belt out seasonal ditties while older girls sneak around the back.

One mum said she handed a couple of pounds to the carollers before spotting the others hanging around the side of her flat in Southend, Essex.

‘I told them I had to go because my dogs will jump the gate to come out,’ she said. ‘I just wanted them to leave. The singing was awful.

‘After I shut the door they hung around the street shouting and swearing.

‘There were also a couple of older kids on the street away from my door and nearly out of my sight. I think my dogs scared them off to be honest, luckily enough.’ The 28-year-old mother-of-one added: ‘I was shocked, I’ve never heard of anything like this the whole five years I have lived here.

‘I’ve checked every window and door is locked every day since.’

Other residents in Maldon Road believe they have been targeted by the Dickensian-style tricksters.

Insp Ian Hughes, from Essex Police, said worried homeowners should not answer the door if they have doubts about the intentions of callers.

He said: ‘Be wary of those that might take advantage of the seasonal period. Creating the impression there is someone at home in the hours of darkness is a good way to deter criminals.

‘Challenge any unknown visitors. If they are legitimate, they will have identification and will be more than willing to offer it for inspection.’