Copycat cat burglar brothers' Essex crime spree

Ernie (left) and Eric Image copyright Margaret Boddy
Image caption Ernie (left) brings home more "gifts" for the couple than brother Eric

An Essex couple is hoping to reunite neighbours with stolen goods and put an end to their two cats' thieving ways.

Brothers Eric and Ernie have brought home more than 100 items to owners Margaret and Eddie Boddy in Braintree.

Their finds include shoes, slippers and gloves, and they almost got away with a cub scout uniform, but were spotted.

Mrs Boddy said she had shown both cats £5 and £10 notes in the hope they might bring home "something other than a mangled item of clothing".

The cats, aged about four, have been honing their criminal ways since they were rescued as kittens after being abandoned at the side of a road.

Career criminals

"The first thing they brought us was a shuttlecock, which they stole while watching the neighbour's children playing badminton," Mrs Boddy said.

Image copyright Margaret Boddy
Image caption Some of the pairs of items acquired by the burglar brothers

Since then, they have given the couple "a vast number of children's shoes", often in pairs.

"They will bring one home one day, and the next day the matching shoe will arrive," she said.

"Somewhere there is a man watching television with cold feet because we have both of his slippers, which say, 'Keep quiet, I'm watching football', on the front."

Mrs Boddy said Ernie, the smaller of the two, was the more prolific thief but Eric had also brought back "a fair share of treasures and the occasional mouse".

She and her husband have come to recognise Ernie's "special miaow".

"It's his way of telling us he's found something new for us," Mrs Boddy said.

She has managed to return some items to neighbours, but many others have been donated to charity shops.

"It does feel a bit like I'm handling stolen goods sometimes," she added.

Eric and Ernie have now joined the prolific band of career cat criminals in the east which include Theo in Ipswich, and Denis in Luton, a cat burglar with his own Facebook page, Twitter account and range of T-shirts.

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