Weird News

Notorious 86-Year-Old Jewel Thief Doris Payne Strikes Again

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If you saw her, you likely wouldn’t suspect that the 86-year-old, elegant and well-spoken woman with white hair is a major criminal. But Doris Payne, who was arrested in Atlanta on Tuesday, is one of the most prolific jewel thieves of all time.

Payne was just arrested for trying to steal a $2,000 necklace from a department store by slipping it into her back pocket. But she has been an active thief since she was a teenager, and by the early 1970’s she was a jet-setting criminal touring the world. She has stolen expensive diamonds from Paris, Milan, London, and Tokyo, and has a rap sheet longer than most. In 2013 she was arrested for stealing a pricey ring in Los Angeles. The president of the Jewelers’ Security Alliance, John Kennedy, said to the LA Times at the time that he had seen her list of accomplishments. “It was so long. You can’t believe how long it was–it was like 50 pages.”

In 2013 she got away with stealing a $22,500 diamond ring in a shop on the exclusive El Paseo row in Palm Desert, Los Angeles. But the next day a security alert was released, saying that Payne had been spotted at the local Saks Fifth Avenue store, and the store’s staff figured out that she had been there the previous day. They then realized that the ring she had tried on was missing. When she was arrested, she pleaded guilty and was sentenced to two years in jail and two years under supervision. The judge also ordered her to stay away from all jewelry stores.

Due to her age and long “career,” Payne has become something of a celebrity thief, starring in a 2013 documentary called “The Life and Crimes of Doris Payne.” She has also been featured on TV and in newspapers countless times. The jeweler in the store that she stole from in 2013, Raju Mehta, mainly laughed about the incident. According to the LA Times, he said: “I was laughing because we have a lot of celebrities come by. And now we say we’ve got a celebrated thief too.”

Payne is currently being held at DeKalb county jail in Atlanta. Sonjia Williams, a spokeswoman for Payne, said that she was shocked to hear the news of the arrest: “I have no idea why she would go out and do this. She knows better.” But Matthew Pond, who co-directed and co-produced the documentary about her, said that he was not very surprised. He stated:

The documentary we made about her focused on a crime she was accused of in San Diego and during her sentencing, as sad as he was to have to send her to prison, the judge said, ‘She’s the Terminator. She won’t stop,’

He added that Payne is a bit of an actress who loves the attention and easily gets bored. Sometimes she admits to stealing but sometimes she totally denies it. He described her as a person who started doing bad things for a good reason and then started liking it. And that seems true. “I don’t have any regrets about stealing jewelry,” she said in the documentary. “I regret getting caught.”

Emma Von Zeipel
Emma Von Zeipel is a staff writer at Law Street Media. She is originally from one of the islands of Stockholm, Sweden. After working for Democratic Voice of Burma in Thailand, she ended up in New York City. She has a BA in journalism from Stockholm University and is passionate about human rights, good books, horses, and European chocolate. Contact Emma at



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