Picture: A Leica M-E similar to this went missing from Red Dot Cameras store in London last week. It is thought the culprit may have stolen kit from stores across the South East of England

A thief escaped with a Leica M-E, a 50mm f/2 Summicron lens and a filter from Red Dot Cameras in Old Street, London last Thursday morning, during normal opening hours.

Police are investigating but no arrests have been made.

The shop’s managing director, Ivor Cooper, suspects that the culprit, who he described as in his sixties with thin grey hair, has also struck other stores in recent months.

Cooper told Amateur Photographer (AP): ‘[The suspect] said, “I’m from a company and I need to buy a camera but I don’t know what I need.”‘

The man told Cooper that he suffered from health problems before visiting a toilet at the store.

When he emerged he told Cooper he wanted to buy a Leica M-E and 50mm lens.

Cooper duly displayed the requested items but the man said that, before paying for them, he had to wait for the photographer he was buying them for to join him.

Suspect waited for chance to strike

The man, who visited the shop’s toilet for a second time, seemingly then waited for Cooper to disappear from the front of the shop for ‘10-15 seconds’, to deal with another customer, before he struck.

After alerting police to the theft, Cooper said he jumped into a police car in a vain bid to help officers spot the thief in nearby streets.

It has emerged that the same man may also have stolen a Nikon D800 worth thousands from Canterbury Camera Centre at the end of January.

The store says it passed CCTV footage to police after a man – whom it believes is known to officers – climbed behind the shop counter to grab the popular DSLR.

It is understood that the same suspect may have also hit Harpers Photographic in Woking, Surrey.

Red Dot Cameras has posted an image on its website, purported to show CCTV footage of a man whom staff are looking for in connection with the theft at its shop.

AP has no evidence that this is the thief.

The following day staff at London Camera Exchange (LCE) in the Strand, London became suspicious after a man of similar appearance appeared at its store.

‘Big wad of cash’

He had a prominent chin and was carrying a ‘big wad of cash to put people at ease’, according to an LCE spokesman.

However, the man ‘legged it’ when staff unsuccessfully tried to take a photo of him using a mobile phone.

The LCE store manager says he is convinced it was the same person who had struck Red Dot Cameras a day earlier, based on the photo it has seen on the Red Dot Cameras website.

A still image taken from grainy CCTV footage of the LCE incident, seen by AP yesterday, shows a man with similar facial features, though wearing dark-rimmed glasses and with hair that looks red.

The owner of another well-known high-street store, which lost a Canon-1D X last November but asked not to be named, says it has passed fingerprints of the suspect to police. It believes the theft was committed by the same man as those at other stores.

Picture: A thief made off with a Nikon D800 from Canterbury Camera Centre earlier this year

Common to both the Red Dot Cameras and Canterbury Camera Centre incidents are the apparent delaying tactics used by the thief who appears to regularly use his mobile phone in-store.

Canterbury Camera Centre says the thief began by asking staff for the price and availability of a professional-level Canon lens and spent 20 minutes in the shop before he vanished.

LCE says it did not notify police because nothing went missing from the Strand store.

A spokesman for Harpers Photographic could not be reached for comment at the time of writing.

Separately, LCE says it does not believe that a theft from its store in Guildford, Surrey is linked to the same person.

Commenting on the Red Dot Cameras theft, a Metropolitan Police spokesman said officers are looking for a white man in his fifties or sixties, around 5.5in tall with receding grey hair and a bald spot.

The suspect was wearing a white T-shirt under a blue anorak, and jeans.

‘Officers are now studying CCTV and any forensic opportunities, but there has been no arrest at present.’

Anyone with information should call police on 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

The stolen Leica M-E carries a serial number 4422798 and the Summicron lens is marked 4214146.

Red Dot Cameras has been given a police crime reference number of 2710811-13. The case is being dealt with by Islington police.