Police hunt ‘notorious dine-and-dash couple who constantly flee restaurants without paying’

The man and woman are believed to be racking up large bills in Southend, Essex.

Suspected dine and dashers in The Pearl Dragon in Southend, Essex. (SWNS)
Suspected dine and dashers in The Pearl Dragon restaurant in Southend, Essex. (SWNS)

Police are hunting a 'dine-and-dash ' couple who are suspected of conning struggling restaurants at a seaside resort.

The man and woman are believed to be racking up large bills in Southend, Essex, before doing a runner without paying their bill. Steve Yeung, 52, the owner of The Pearl Dragon in the Eastern Esplanade, said in the latest incident on Sunday the young couple left a £127 bill.

After posting CCTV stills of the pair on Facebook, Mr Yeung said many other businesses had come forward, and it seemed they were prolific in the area. The CCTV images show a bearded man and woman in a long grey coat entering the restaurant.

The brazen pair - believed to be in their 30s - tucked into prawns on toast, ribs and crispy duck before washing it down with cokes and lemonades. They then left without paying the bill for their four starters, four main courses and up to eight soft drinks.

Mr Yeung, whose family has run the restaurant since 1978, said: "We started getting suspicious a couple of hours in because the gentleman kept going outside and in and outside again. To begin with, there was nothing to be concerned about - there was nothing excessive – no lobster, or alcoholic drinks.”

He added: "So many people have called, emailed or come into the restaurant and the couple are apparently well known for leaving without paying. They're known for doing it - yet I had no clue until it happened to me.”

The woman is accused of not paying for her meal. (SWNS)
The woman is accused of not paying for her meal. (SWNS)

Mr Yeung said his business was being hit by dine and dashers once every two months. He said: "Dining and dashing has definitely gone up in recent years, it used to be once in a blue moon – it was so infrequent you could remember each one.

"We now probably see them now every couple of months with the one before this in December or November time, leaving behind a £180 bill. As a business, you have to become more aware of it and it does unfortunately mean you become judgemental.

"It shouldn’t have to be like that – I hate it has come to this.”

The Pearl Dragon has not only seen an increase in customers not paying their bills, but was also victim to being burgled four times in two weeks last July.

Essex Police confirmed they are investigating the incident. A spokesman said: “We have received an allegation of theft that took place at a restaurant in Eastern Esplanade, Southend, on Sunday 18 February.

"It was reported a man and woman ordered food at the restaurant and left without paying."

More South and South East stories - click above
More South and South East stories - click above
The couple left a £127 bill. (SWNS)
The couple left a £127 bill. (SWNS)

The law

The Making Off Without Payment law in the UK, also known as 'bilking', is when a person dishonestly leaves a place where goods or services were provided without paying for them. This is considered a criminal offense under Section 3 of the Theft Act 1978.

If a defendant is convicted in the Magistrates' Court, they can face a fine of up to £5,000 and/or a maximum prison sentence of six months. In cases that are deemed more serious, if the defendant is convicted in the Crown Court (or sent to the Crown Court for sentencing), they may face up to two years of imprisonment and/or an unlimited fine.

What needs to be established?

The prosecution needs to prove each of the following elements of the offence to secure a conviction, according to

  • Making off

  • Without payment

  • Knowledge that payment is required on the spot

  • Goods were supplied or services provided

  • An intention to avoid payment

  • Dishonesty

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