Dine and dash couple hunted after ripping off dozens of pubs and restaurants

A couple have been likened to the modern day ‘Bonnie and Clyde’ after racking up huge bills in hotels, pubs and restaurants before disappearing without paying.

The pair are thought to have targeted at least a dozen venues across the east of England in the last 10 months, each time pulling the same trick.

They have been living a lavish lifestyle, drinking bottles of high-end wine and spirits and eating out at posh restaurants before their card is declined. 

The fraudsters then leave a fake address and phone number and promise to come back and pay the following day but are never seen again. 

On one occasion they managed to dodge paying £1,500 after staying a week at a hotel while it’s thought they ate out for free most nights of the week before lockdown. 

Norfolk and Suffolk Police are investigating five linked incidents which have been reported to them, but the victims are confident there are more cases.

Julie and Stephen Penney who run the Swan Inn in Monks Eleigh, Suffolk, were hit by the fraudsters on Halloween.

The couple racked up a bill of £56 having several courses washed down with double vodkas.

Julie, 52, saw nothing amiss when their card was declined. She said: ‘They have this down to a fine art. They were completely at ease, they didn’t give us any cause for concern. They were very confident and smooth.’

Footage captured on the Swan’s CCTV system, which Julie has passed to the police, shows the couple casually eating their dinner and chatting.

She said: ‘They must have been having a free meal every night at that point. He assured us that they only lived down the road and they would pop round and pay tomorrow.

‘At the time it felt very embarrassing for them that their card was declined. But then he left with an unopened bottle of wine just to add insult to injury.’

When Julie and Stephen tried to call the phone number the pair had left they realised a digit was missing.

And at the address they had given, the landlords were informed the couple had moved on months ago.

Julie posted about the couple on a pub owners’ Facebook group, and could not believe the response.

More than a dozen landlords and restaurateurs have got in touch with her to say they were targeted in exactly the same way.

They were all given the same initials and fake address, and confirmed the couple when Julie showed her CCTV.

‘It has been going on since January, and I thought it’s about time someone stopped them,’ Julie said.

‘It sounds like they’ve been going out every night of the week and having free meals everywhere. At one place they racked up a £1,500 bill and didn’t pay. They’re like East Anglia’s Bonnie and Clyde.

‘I think they’ve got away with it for so long, because no pub owner would think anyone would be so brazen and prolific at dine and dashing.

‘It’s the first time it’s happened to us in two years of running the pub. Why should we just accept it?’

Julie was particularly outraged as the tricksters were targeting restaurants and pubs at such a tough time for the hospitality industry.

‘We’re all struggling massively at the moment, she said. ‘And to have a couple take advantage for their own selfish gains is not on. That’s our waitress’s wages they’ve taken.’

As well as the incident at the Swann Inn, Suffolk Police have linked two other cases.

Officers are investigating when a couple failed to pay and gave false details for a £95 meal at the Waterfront Bistro, Ipswich, on September 2.

And on September 10, at the Marquis of Cornwallis pub, in Layham, a couple didn’t pay and gave false details for dinner worth £197. In both cases they said their card was declined.

A Norfolk Police spokesman added: ‘Officers can confirm they are investigating allegations of fraud.

‘A man and a woman ate at the Bird In Hand Pub in Wreningham on July 19 and left without paying.

‘Officers are linking this with a similar incident where a man and a woman stayed at the Sugar Beat Public House in Bracon Ash on July 20 and failed to make payment.’

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