It was a typical Friday afternoon at Phipps Plaza, one of Atlanta’s oldest and toniest shopping malls. At Saks Fifth Avenue, nothing was unusual about the little old lady who walked in, until security cameras caught her slipping a $690 pair of Christian Dior earrings into her pocket. The woman was Doris Payne, an 85-year-old jewel thief with an international life of crime that spans six decades.
A loss prevention specialist reported that he observed her on surveillance video, according to a police report.
“I think these officers just thought it was a run of the mill shoplifting. They took the woman into custody and short time there after they get notice that another jurisdiction had a warrant for her and she was an international thief,” said Sgt. Warren Pickard, with the Atlanta Police Department.
“She put them in her pocket and politely walked out of the store,” Pickard said.
Payne is currently in custody in Atlanta. Her attorney says she is in good spirits despite some health issues.
Doris Payne’s story is a uniquely American tale of a life of crime. She began committing crimes at age 20, and she has stolen items all over the world – places like New York, Paris, Monte Carlo, and Tokyo.
Most recently, police in Charlotte have accused her of nabbing a $33,000 diamond ring in July of this year. Dovy Klarberg, another jeweler in the Charlotte area expressed a grudging respect for the octogenarian bandit.
Though it’s criminal, Doris is someone kind of to be admired in a strange way. She’s very slick. She definitely has a talent.
Payne’s story is so notorious that at one time producers tapped Halle Berry to portray her in a TV movie. A 2013 documentary entitled The Life And Crimes Of Doris Payne has won awards and made her even more infamous.
“There has never been a day that I went to steal that I did not get what I wanted to do,” Payne says in the documentary. “I don’t have any regrets about stealing jewelry. I regret getting caught.”