A woman who stole from elderly people in a nursing home was caught after police used SmartWater forensic technology in a covert ‘sting’ operation.

Last month, police officers launched an investigation after concerns were raised money was being stolen from residents in a nursing home in Warwick.

In a bid to catch the thief, Warwickshire Police and West Mercia Police’s We Don’t Buy Crime team sprayed SmartWater on several £10 and £20 notes.

This covert version of the invisible liquid can transfer onto anything it comes into contact with – including skin and clothing. It is only visible under an ultra-violet light meaning those who come into contact with it could be unaware that it has left a mark on them. It stays on the skin for weeks and SmartWater scientists only require a trace the size of a speck of dust to be able to forensically determine where it has a come from. SmartWater is also extensively used to mark property, making it uniquely identifiable.

Not only was the thief caught with the SmartWater-marked cash, but she also had traces on her skin.

Superintendent Tom Harding, who leads the We Don’t Buy Crime Team, says police are turning the tables on sneaky criminals.

He said: “This is a prime example of some of the covert tactics we’re deploying to catch people who abuse their position of trust and target vulnerable people.

“Protecting those who need our help the most is our absolute priority and it is shameful elderly people have been taken advantage of by someone who was there to look after them.

“Thieves who think they can get away with committing such despicable crimes can think again, anything they steal could be marked and they could ultimately be caught red handed.”

Rita Ampaw, aged 20, from Hinkley Road in Coventry was charged with theft from person and given a Community Order to run until January 2019 at Warwick Magistrates Court on Thursday (12 July). She must also carry out unpaid work and pay court costs.