Gerry Braiden, Herald (Glasgow), April 6, 2009
Two Asian men wearing traditional female Muslim dress and carrying handbags have robbed a jewellery shop in a possible copycat of an international spate of thefts. The pair wore black Muslim dress, including headwear which completely covered their faces, as well as sunglasses, when they carried out the attack.
The raid on the ATAA Jewellers in Glasgow’s Great Western Road resembles thefts in Edinburgh, Paris, Berlin, Frankfurt and London, where a robber has dressed as a wealthy Muslim woman to take jewellery worth hundreds of thousands of pounds.
The disguise prompted one prominent Scots-Asian politician to say retailers would be “perfectly within their rights” to deny entry to anyone wearing a burkha or niqab.
Hanzala Malik, a Glasgow councillor for 14 years and in whose ward Saturday’s raid took place, said he was concerned this was a copycat event and that while it would be unfortunate for a Muslim women in religious dress to be denied access, safety concerns should outweigh this.
The councillor admitted having some sympathy with former home secretary Jack Straw who caused controversy when he said he asked constituents to lift their veils before he spoke to them at surgeries.
He said: “If retailers are uncomfortable about customers coming into secured premises and dressed in burkhas, they are perfectly within their rights to deny entry. Banks don’t allow people wearing helmets into their premises.
“It’s not that much of an issue in Scotland because the burkha is not that common up here.
“But in this day and age if you want to wear that dress and expect to be served, I don’t think you should feel hurt if you are not.”
The robbers entered the jeweller’s at around 4pm on Saturday, threatened staff and then made off with their loot along Woodlands Drive into West Princes Street towards the Park Road area. As they made their escape, clothing was thrown away.
It is understood to be the second raid on a jeweller’s owned by the same family in little over a year. The other one was on a shop in Cathcart Road, on the south side of Glasgow, which has remained shut since.
Police said no firearm was discharged and no-one was injured but that two female members of staff were left badly shaken and were taken by ambulance to the Western Infirmary as a precaution.
The two suspects are described as Asian, around 5ft 10in to 6ft in height. They were both wearing sunglasses and carrying handbags.
Detective Constable Andrea Mclellan said: “This was a very frightening experience for the women working in the shop at the time of the robbery and they are still very distressed and traumatised by the whole incident.”
In February, the theft of a £15,000 diamond ring from the Lime Blue Diamond Store in Edinburgh was linked to a series of raids by an international thief who dresses as a wealthy Muslim woman and has been dubbed the “high magician”.
The woman, wearing a headscarf, coat and goldframed glasses, either swaps gems for replicas or distracts staff.
She may also have been responsible for stealing a £115,000 six-carat diamond ring from Abrahams jewellers in Hatton Garden, London, after CCTV footage appeared to show it was the same woman who has struck at stores in Paris, Berlin and Frankfurt.