Police have arrested two women of eastern European origin and a man who are believed to have targeted elderly shoppers and stolen debit cards and money on Tuesday.

The group, from Enfield, North London, were first spotted by the Royal Wootton Bassett CCTV team who said the two women were acting suspiciously in the High Street.

They were seen getting into a blue Ford Focus and the car was checked on an automatic number plate recognition database run by the police.

Later on, at 11.57am in Calne, a 76-year-old woman was using the Lloyds TSB Bank cash point in the High Street when she was distracted by two women.

She believes they stole her debit card from her bag on the ground and withdrew £290.

A second woman, aged 69, who was shopping in Sainsbury’s, Calne, also called to say she’d been targeted several hours later at 1.15pm.

She was putting her trolley back when a woman asked her if she could use it and then followed her to ask if a purse on the ground was hers.

The purse was returned, but later the woman discovered her debit card was missing and £270 had been spent in four different transactions.

In the afternoon the Ford Focus was seen by two officers who were operating a camera on the A4 towards Chippenham.

They followed the car until they lost sight of it in Avenue La Fleche.

Shortly afterwards police received a report from post office in New Road who said two females were attempting to steal purses.

When the officers caught up with the wineb they found around £1,200 on them and found the Ford Focus parked in New Park Street with a man inside.

Sergeant Phil Connor said: “This is a nationwide problem throughout the country - Chippenham is no different and has been targeted in the past.

“As soon as the police received a call that there were two females seen acting suspiciously officers from the neighbourhood policing team responded immediately to put a cordon on the town.

“This is a particularly cruel crime as the victims that are targeted are generally elderly and vulnerable. They prey upon the fact that they are very good natured and co-operative.

“We would like to remind people to ensure at all times that their hand bags are zipped closed. People should carry hand bags firmly over the shoulder with the hand bag position to the front of their body.

“I would appeal to young people to warn their elderly parents and relatives about this particularly awful crime and to help and support the police in tracking these offenders.”

A 25-year-old woman has been arrested on suspicion of theft and a 26-year-old woman has been arrested on suspicion of theft and attempted theft, and of urinating in a public place.

A 30-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to steal. All three suspects have been released on bail and to Melksham police station on May 10.