By Sophie Norris
A baker claims to have caught a ‘professional beggar’ on camera who he says is pretending to be homeless and paralysed so he can scam drug money from vulnerable pensioners.
Kyle Smith believes the man lives in a council house but pretends to be unable to walk by riding a mobility scooter and claims to not have eaten for days when begging a Derby high street.
The 24-year-old says the man, believed to be in his 40s, targets elderly victims for cash but then transfers the money to an accomplice who hides around the corner.
A rough sleeper has also told Kyle that the alleged scammers use the cash to fund their addiction to former ‘legal high’ Mephedrone or M-CAT, now a Class B drug.
Kyle said: “I first spotted him a couple of days ago and he returned yesterday.
“Throughout the day we saw him sat outside the shop and saw how many people he actually asked, mainly OAPs or people on their own.
“There were between ten and 15 people who either bought him food or gave him money.
“It’s wrong when he’s asking so many people, especially OAPs because they feel like they have to [give him money].
“When he got a number of donations, he would ride around the corner down a back alley and give the cash to his friend.
“It was both coins and notes and looked like a nice amount.
“He’s got a scooter and he’s got to have paid for it himself, surely.
“Where does the money come from for that if he’s homeless? Where has he managed to charge it because it’s battery-powered?
“On the first day I saw him, he was wearing average sporty clothes, that you might wear when you’re out and about, but the second they he had new clean clothes on.
“I have had quite a few people get in touch with me saying he has a house and isn’t homeless, then an actual homeless customer who came in the shop said he has a council house down the road.
“Fair enough if someone genuinely is homeless, but it is winding me up when it is so wrong when he is getting loads of money.
“When I see homeless people on the streets, I always buy them food.
“I’m the sort of person where if they are begging me for it, then I don’t like to help because they are probably trying to get their next fix of drugs.
“If they are just sat to the side, I’ll buy them some food.
“I saw this man’s accomplice in the alleyway and he handed the money over to him.
“People think he’s vulnerable and can’t walk, but he’s taking advantage of their kindness.
“If I see the beggar again, I’ll tell him now that we have seen what he is doing.
“My manager tried to get in touch with the police but I’m not sure where she got with that.
“He was sat there for hours and he didn’t move before I left work.
“I’m not sure how long he was there after that either.”
Several managers and shop assistants in the area were aware of the man and claim that a police community support officer (PCSO) had approached the man and asked him to move along.
One woman, who worked at a clothing shop on the street, said: “I’ve seen around quite a lot on his blue scooter but he doesn’t stay outside here for long because it’s illegal to beg.
“The Cathedral Quarter wardens are in charge of this area so I suspect they would tell him and other people to move along.
“Apparently, a support officer had a word with him and asked him to move on.”
The Cathedral Quarter of the city is not currently owned or overseen by anyone until bidding starts next month, so representatives were unable to provide a comment.
A spokesperson for Derbyshire Police said they were not aware of the individual that Kyle had witnessed.
The spokesperson said: “There is a misconception that many people who are seen begging in Derby are homeless.
“The reality is that many have access to food, accommodation, clothing and are in receipt of benefits but turn to begging to boost their finances.
“Many of those who appear to be homeless lead chaotic lifestyles usually driven by alcohol or drug addiction and so this is where most of the money collected through begging is spent.
“I fully understand that some people may wish to give generously to those who are less fortunate than themselves, if that donation was given to a local charity it could be used to help those with addictions rather than being spent by the individuals fueling them.
“Derby has excellent alcohol and drug treatment services supported by many charities and housing providers, do not be fooled into thinking someone carrying a sleeping bag or presenting themselves to be homeless has no other option but to beg or sleep rough.”