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Police step in to give left-shoe snatchers the boot

For a short while, the thieves were one step ahead of the detectives. Swedish police and shoeshop owners, were baffled when the the left shoes of designer footwear were snatched from Stockholm boutiques.

But eventually the clues pointed only one way -- to Denmark, where shops traditionally display the right shoe in their racks.

Police were therefore able to announce yesterday that they had foiled a criminal masterplan to match up stolen left shoes from Malmo with the corresponding right shoes pilfered in Copenhagen.

"Apparently this is a tried and tested approach," said Stig Moller, a police superintendent in Malmo, Sweden's third-largest city.

Staff at a shoe shop in the Entre shopping mall in Malmo saw two men in their fifties stealing left shoes at their boutique at the weekend. The duo escaped with seven left shoes which -- if paired with the right shoes -- were worth £900.

Although the robbery was small-scale, the type of theft was said to be a common crime.


"We have noticed that left shoes have disappeared in the past, but we never caught the thieves," said Anna Johansson, a shop assistant in Entre.

"Since we know that Danish stores keep the right shoes in the stockroom and put the left shoes on the boutique shelves -- and we do it the other way around in Sweden -- we figured that the corresponding shoes probably disappear as well in stores in Denmark.

"I do not know why the Danes display the right shoes -- I guess there are no international rules."

A few hours after their first visit, the two men returned to the store. The shop assistants recognised them and after a brief chase the pair were caught and handed over to the police.

Malmo, home to 125 shoe shops, is only a 30-minute train ride away from Copenhagen, which has several hundred outlets. Many brands are sold in both cities as manufacturers and chains operate all over Scandinavia.

Ms Johansson fears that shoe theft will increase this year. "Shoes are attractive to steal since they are easy to move and easy to sell. Also, they have become rather expensive lately, and since many stores have cut down on shop assistants amid the financial crisis we have no chance against thieves in the shopping rush hour," she said.

Lars-Hakan Lindholm, a spokesman for Malmo Police, said they did not keep statistics on the number of left shoes stolen and had "no co-operation with the Danish police on this case".

What might seem the obvious solution -- to get the Danes to display only the left shoe as well -- was rejected by Marie Andersen, a shop assistant in Copenhagen.

"There is no point in switching to left shoes, since in Germany they display the right shoes," she said.