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June 22, 2006

China jails leaders of deaf-mute child thieves

From: - Wellington,New Zealand - Jun 22, 2006

BEIJING: A Chinese court has jailed the leaders of a gang of deaf-mute child thieves who set up a burglary class to recruit and train new talent, a newspaper said yesterday.

The ring-leader, known as "Big Sister Liu", her accomplice, Xiao Zhu, and five others had been found guilty of training thieves to rob people in Beijing's markets and shopping malls in a case bringing to mind Fagin's artful pickpockets in Charles Dickens' Oliver Twist.

"The gang of over 20 thieves were all deaf and mostly children" and had received specialised training in "techniques to steal and avoid detection", the Beijing News said.

In July 2005, police received a series of complaints from people who had had backpacks stolen in a Beijing market, the paper said.

Investigations led to the discovery of an apartment rendered to resemble a typical clothing market to enable students to learn how to steal in a practical environment.

Graduates targeted young and affluent-looking women at wholesale clothing markets, and collected merchandise to the tune of 94,800 yuan ($NZ19,391.26), the paper said.

© Fairfax New Zealand Limited 2006.