COVID-19: London police on hunt for man who charged elderly woman for fake vaccine

Local police are appealing to the public for help identifying the suspect.
Local police are appealing to the public for help identifying the suspect. Photo credit: City of London Police

An elderly woman was jabbed with a sharp implement and conned into paying £160 (NZ$300) by a man pretending to administer COVID-19 vaccines on behalf of the NHS, according to the City of London Police.

In a statement on Friday (local time), the police force revealed it was on the hunt for the unidentified man, suspected of fraudulently demanding payment to administer fake vaccines against the virus.

The man's victim was a 92-year-old woman, who he visited at her home in Surbiton, London on December 30. He told the senior he was from the NHS and had been sent to administer a vaccine. 

The woman allowed the man inside her home, where he jabbed her in the arm with a sharp utensil described as "dart-like".

He then charged the woman £160 and told her it would be reimbursed by the NHS. She paid, and the man left the premises.

On January 4, the same man visited the woman's home a second time, asking for a further £100. It's not clear in the statement whether the woman paid the additional cash.

"This is a disgusting and totally unacceptable assault on a member of the public which won't be tolerated," Detective Inspector Kevin Ives from the City of London Police's Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit said on Friday.

The City of London Police said it is not yet known what substance, if any, was administered to the 92-year-old. However, a check-up at a local hospital found the woman had suffered no ill effects from the fake vaccination.

Images of the alleged offender have now been released by the police in an appeal for public assistance. 

"We are appealing to anyone who may have information that could assist us in identifying this man to get in touch. It is crucial we catch him as soon as possible as not only is he defrauding individuals of money, he may endanger people's lives," Det Insp Ives said.

The man is described as white with a London accent, aged in his early thirties. He is five-foot-nine and of a medium build, with light brown hair that is combed back.  

On his second visit to the victim's address, he was wearing a navy blue tracksuit with white stripes down the side.

Londoners with information about the man's identity are being urged to come forward.