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June 28, 2011

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Mentally ill woman 'hired to steal for kiosk'

A NEWSSTAND'S owners are said to have hired a woman with mental health problems to steal from stores and tourists - knowing that police are unlikely to detain her.

It is claimed that in the evenings the stand near the Shanghai Railway Station sells the goods the woman brings back.

Railway police and the kiosk supervisor are investigating the newsstand, located under an overpass on Minli Road, after residents and guards complained.

According to a guard surnamed Lu, who patrols the area, the 55-year-old woman, whose name is not known, has been pickpocketing tourists and stealing from electronic products malls and clothing markets for two years.

Whatever goods she steals are sold for knockdown prices at the kiosk at night, said Lu.

"She pretends to have learning difficulties, which makes vendors less vigilant. Then she starts pickpocketing skillfully," he said.

"And if she's challenged, she starts screaming, accusing people of bullying mental patients."

Railway police said they twice caught the woman stealing cell phones from a nearby electronic products shopping mall but had to set her free after confiscating the goods as hospital reports show that she suffered from mental illness.

A vendor surnamed Tan, who sells cell phone accessories on Minli Road, told Shanghai Daily that the woman is well-known to stallholders.

After vendors threatened her, she now steals from other markets, it is claimed.

Tan said the woman has a very good relationship with the kiosk's bosses, a 40-year-old man and his wife.

Stolen items are sold covertly at the newsstand, with the spoils shared, it is alleged.

The couple have also hired other vendors as "actors" discussing the goods to attract passersby and as guards.

Anyone inquiring about the sources of the goods is surrounded by guards and forced to buy and leave, said a resident surnamed Wang.

A Shanghai Daily reporter who went to try to speak to the couple alleged to be organizing the criminal activity was confronted by a group and asked to leave.

Local lawyer Wang Zhan told Shanghai Daily that the woman shouldn't be able to use her mental health problems to avoid being held.

Police must judge if she was suffering from mental illness while committing a crime. If she was not, then she should be held responsible.

An official with the kiosk's supervisor, Oriental Kiosks Co, said they would investigate the claims.


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