Spanish police have warned British holidaymakers to be wary of a gang of loathsome thieves who spit on their victims and then distract them by offering to help clean up.
Detectives have released footage of the bag snatchers at work, showing the ruse in which two men team up to attack a blonde woman and a young traveller.
Both incidents took place in the Barcelona metro system.
In one, a man wearing a black baseball cap is filmed spitting on the woman from behind as she buys a subway ticket, then offers to clean up the saliva he left in her hair.
She is seen turning around almost immediately after she feels something hit her, but the wily criminal is ready for her reaction and already has his back to her before putting on his good Samaritan semblance.
Both incidents took place in the Barcelona metro system. A blonde woman was the target of the spitting and robbing technique. The man can be seen cleaning the spit
In the second incident, a young traveler is targeted. The man spits on him and an accomplice rushes in
His accomplice, wearing a white baseball cap, enters while the spitter wipes away the saliva, making sure she doesn’t take her eyes off a backpack she left on the floor and previously held close to her chest.
Once his accomplice has snatched the bag, he gestures as if to say that his train is arriving and disappearing, leading the female victim to realize that she has been targeted by clever con artists when it is already too late.
The second incident released by police is a near repeat of the abhorrent tactic, in which a young man traveling lighter with a small suitcase and a laptop is the victim.
A man believed to be the same person who attacked the woman approaches him on the platform of a Barcelona metro station and spits into the back of his hoodie.
He then turns his back on the traveler before he can find out who directed something he feels on the back of his neck at him and what it is.
In the moments following the ambush, the victim averts his gaze from his belongings during the seconds when an accomplice has to grab his laptop, as his aggressor plays the role of sympathizer and offers to clean up the mess.
A spokesman for the regional police of Mossos d’Esquadra in Catalonia, of which Barcelona is part, said in a message alongside the images: “Beware of distractions of any kind involving strangers in public transport, on the street or wherever.
The victim is seen at the ticket machine before one of the men confronts her
The man in the baseball cap walks up to her and spits at her before walking away and striking up a conversation with her again
His accomplice, wearing a white baseball cap, enters as the spitter wipes away the saliva and keeps her from taking her eye off a backpack. Once his accomplice has snatched the bag, he gestures as if to say his train is arriving and disappearing
“Keep your possessions under control at all times.”
It was not immediately clear today whether the gang exposed by the Catalan police is also active in other parts of Spain.
Barcelona’s security has been in the spotlight in recent years and it has become known as one of the most favored destinations by professional watch thieves from places like Naples.
Tennis star Grigor Dimitrov fell victim to the gangs of designer watch robbers who attacked the city in April.
The 31-year-old Bulgarian had the £62,000 watch ripped off his wrist in his car as he returned from training ahead of the Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell tournament.
The second incident released by police is a near repeat of the abhorrent tactic, in which a young man traveling lighter with a small suitcase and a laptop is the victim
A man believed to be the same person who attacked the woman approaches him on the platform of a Barcelona metro station and spits into the back of his hoodie. While the man cleans the spit, the victim averts his gaze from his belongings and an accomplice takes his laptop
When the man looks at his bag after the thieves leave, he realizes his laptop has been taken and runs off
The timepiece was described as a Swiss Bianchet watch worth 70,000 euros (£62,560).
In June last year, Formula 1 driver Sebastian Vettel had a backpack stolen in the city.
He tried to chase the thieves by hopping on an electric scooter after a bag was taken from his Aston Martin when he briefly stepped out.
Last August, Barcelona footballer Robert Lewandowski had his £59,000 watch stolen while signing autographs for an evening training session at his club’s Ciutat Esportiva complex.
The striker sprinted after the perpetrator, who was eventually caught by the police who returned the watch to the sportsman.
A month later, a British tourist was stabbed in the town, where rugby player and reality TV star Levi Davis went missing in circumstances still under investigation, while trying to fight off thieves who snatched his bag.