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Living legend

Notorious 86-year-old jewel thief Doris Payne nabbed after alleged shoplifting attempt

December 14, 2016

Police say Doris Payne is at it again. The crafty 86-year-old was arrested Tuesday at a department store outside Atlanta for allegedly attempting to steal a $2,000 necklace. Dunwoody police said she slipped the piece of jewelry into her back pocket and strode out of the store. She’s facing a shoplifting charge. Before her bust on Tuesday, Payne was most recently arrested a little more than a year ago trying to steal a pair of Christian Dior earrings from a Saks Fifth Avenue store in an Atlanta mall.

Payne is perhaps the world’s most famous jewel thief. Her remarkable criminal career spans five decades and made her the subject of a 2013 documentary. She’s stolen jewelry all over the U.S. and on at least three continents. A cool elegance and the help of at least 22 aliases have helped abet her daring life of crime that began in her early twenties. Experts believe she’s probably gotten away with more heists than she’s been busted for.

Doris Payne pictured in her booking photo (Dunwoody Police).
Doris Payne, 86, pictured in her booking photo (Dunwoody Police).

Earlier this year, the octogenarian sat down with The Associated Press to discuss, in vague terms, her craft and legacy. “I don’t dictate what happens when I walk in the store,” Payne explained. “The people in charge dictate what happens with me when I walk in the store. I don’t tell a person in the store I want to see something that costs $10,000. They make those decisions based on how I present myself and how I look.”

When asked about having stolen jewelry, Payne demurred. “I’ve never, ever walked out of a jewelry store with a piece of stolen merchandise in my purse, in my pocket,” she said. “Never. I’ve never, ever concealed. Never.”

At one point Payne said she’d retired from her thievery, but it just didn’t stick and eventually she became known as the “granny thief.” Her criminal fate is a point she reflected on during the AP interview. “I could have been more than what I was. I’m aware of that,” Payne said. “I was a thief.”

Watch the trailer for the documentary on Payne below.

Read the full story at The Associated Press.