A HANDBAG thief who should have been captured on CCTV has got away with the crime – because a whole batch of cameras in Halesowen town centre were not working for several weeks.

Mick Poultney, of Colley Gate, discovered the cameras were out of operation after his wife Linda had her handbag stolen in the town centre during the run-up to Christmas.

Given the theft took place in front of a CCTV camera – near to the Dancers schoolwear shop on the High Street – Mr Poultney assumed stills would help the police identify the culprit.

But his subsequent enquiries to the council revealed that not only was that particular device not working, neither was any of the council’s surveillance equipment in the town centre.

Dudley Council say the cameras are now fully functional but Mr Poultney – whose wife was robbed of £240 cash in her handbag that she will not get back – says they should never have been left idle.

He told the News: “I think they have only been repaired because I mouthed off after finding out about it. It shouldn’t be like that.

“They should always be working. This is what we pay our rates for. I’ve got cameras on the allotment I run. They only cost £20 and they are brilliant cameras.

“As well as the £240 cash, the thief took bank cards which they used in six places – we got that money back through the bank but that’s not the point.

“It’s the stress - my wife wouldn’t go out for two weeks. I couldn’t care less about the money. My confidence in the council has gone out of the window.”

Mr Poultney’s wife Linda was Christmas shopping with her 90-year-old wheelchair-bound mother Kathleen on a Saturday afternoon when the theft occurred.

Having withdrawn cash from Barclays Bank, they paused to give an organ-playing busker some money and they believe those few seconds are when the thief struck, taking the handbag off the handles of the wheelchair.

Mr Poultney added: “There was a camera opposite Dancers and another outside the Cornbow Centre nearby so I thought ‘we’ll get them’.”

Having reported the crime to the police, he found a number for the council’s CCTV department which was where the issue with the cameras came to light.

He added: “I told a lady what had happened and she said the cameras weren’t working and hadn’t been working for a couple of weeks.”

With no CCTV images available, Mr Poultney said the police have been forced to close the case because of a lack of evidence or description of the offenders.

Another Halesowen resident, John Bennett, also got in touch with a similar story when he lost an envelope containing money in the town centre, also in the build-up to Christmas.

He was told by police it could not be traced because the cameras were not working, adding: “They pay all that money for the cameras, they should be used.”

Councillor Khurshid Ahmed, Dudley Council cabinet member for regeneration, planning and economic investment, said: “All cameras in High Street are now in working order.

"Our priority will always be to ensure that our local town centres and shopping areas are as safe as possible, which is why we are also reviewing CCTV across the borough, with a view to investing, subject to funding.”