Hoteliers and restaurateurs in Herefordshire and Gloucestershire have been warned to be on their guard against a pair of suspected tricksters who have already been linked to five cases of leaving hotels without paying.
Stephen Hubber, proprietor of Castle Lodge hotel and the Wilton restaurant in Ross-on-Wye, raised the alarm about the couple, initially on Twitter, after they spent two nights at his hotel in early October and then failed to settle the £400 bill.
He said that he had subsequently discovered that four other hotels had suffered the same experience. The pair left one hotel having run up a bill in excess of £2,000. In Hubber's case, he was told by the female guest that she had to dash out to transfer some money, after which she failed to return. He tried to contact her via e-mail, at which point she made excuses about problems with her health before disappearing.
When Hubber tried to charge the bill to the credit card details the pair had left, the transaction was declined. The pair are understood to have used similar excuses with other hotels in the area, usually using the ill health of a relative as a reason for their rapid departure.
He alleged that the couple has even gone as far as leaving luggage in the hotel rooms to convince staff that they were due to return. On closer inspection, the luggage was found to contain old clothes and empty cardboard boxes.
Hubber said he had no reason to suspect that the pair would not be able to pay their bill: "They said they were house-hunting. They have used that same theme at every other hotel I have spoken with. They even went to an estate agent and registered their details with them," he said. "Most of the independent hoteliers don't really take money up front. We always have the security of their credit card details. £400 for us is a lot of money, given the state of play at the moment."
The pair were described as driving a white BMW 5 Series. The woman, who has previously given her name as Lisa Hubbard, and a false address in Gosport, Hampshire, is described as white, in her early 40s, and of a "plump" or "dumpy" build. Her male partner is described as being of mixed race, of a similar age, and much taller, at around 6ft 4in.
A spokesman for West Mercia Police said that inquiries into the case were ongoing, and that police were checking with neighbouring forces to see if the suspects had been operating in other parts of the country. No arrests have been made so far, but anyone with information is urged to contact police on 101.
By Neil Gerrard
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