Not since Cary Grant made hearts flutter in “It Takes A Thief” has there been a jewelry burglar as much loved as Doris Payne. At least, she’s loved by writers and film makers who admire her senior moxie. Jewelers have yet to fall in love with her, although they’ve fallen for her charms many times.

Rich Taste
Ms. Payne, who now clocks in at age 84, is “alleged” (in the words of JCKOnline) to have clipped a diamond ring worth $33,000. from a David Yurman store in North Carolina earlier this month. Funny thing is, Ms. Payne has a knack for being implicated in burglaries without ever being arrested for them. Jewelry store owners near the David Yurman location have been warned by local police to look out for the octogenarian robber, but Ms. Payne is not officially considered a suspect and is not being charged in the theft.

doris paynePayne’s fame has earned her a Wikipedia page and, apparently, a soon to be made biopic starring Halle Berry. She is said to to enter jewelry stores posing as a wealthy woman and use her charm to get a salesperson to show her large numbers of pieces. Sooner or later, the salesperson has a tendency to forget how much jewelry has been taken from the cases, at which point Ms. Payne’s quick hands tuck away a few desired baubles. She then fences the pieces immediately and hops a plane out of town. She is said to have used over 20 aliases.

Starting Young
Payne’s first heist was way back in 1952, when, at age 23, she took a Greyhound bus from her home in Slab Fork, West Virginia to Pittsburgh, went to a fine jewelry store and sashayed out with a diamond ring worth $22,000. She allegedly followed up by robbing dozens of stores from California to Las Vegas, Colorado, France, England and even Monte Carlo. She has done several stints in prison for her activities, but she’s been released early in some cases due to prison overcrowding, and she’s actually managed to escape from one Federal prison while visiting it’s hospital ward.

Still Going For The Gusto
Time does not appear to have slowed her down or diminished her interest in getting the very best. In 2011, Ms. Payne was sentenced to 16 months in prison in San Diego for stealing a diamond ring. Then in 2013, she was arrested for clipping a $22,000 diamond ring from a jewelry store in Palm Desert, CA. According to Gail Riddell, a police detective in Denver, Ms. Payne is “very good at what she does…She has the style.” Ms. Payne herself told in a 2005 interview that she has always focused on diamonds, not because she likes them but because “they’re easier than everything else.” Asked how her legendary career took shape, she muses “I don’t know. I think the whole thing just got out of hand. It kind of went amok.”

Read NBC’s amusing article and interview with Doris Payne here

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