alopecia areataA burglar in Essex shaved his head and claimed to suffer from alopecia areata to avoid being caught after police issued an e-fit image of him with black hair and a beard.

Ian Dunstane, aged 41, who burgled a house in Bognor Regis in November last year, came up with the plan after seeing the e-fit, but was foiled when DNA evidence linked him to the crime scene.

What is alopecia areata?

Alopecia areata is considered to be an auto-immune condition that mistakenly attacks the hair follicles, causing them to shrink, which leads to hair loss. The condition is often temporary, meaning that hair will spontaneously regrow, but it can recur.

In some cases, alopecia areata causes patchy hair loss, but for some people all the hair on the scalp falls out. Alopecia universalis is the name given when the condition affects all the hair on the body.

How could you pretend to have alopecia?

Because alopecia areata shrinks the hair follicles, you would need to shave your head at least daily, possibly even twice a day, to truly fake it. In most people, hair regrowth is so quick that within a day a small amount of stubble can be seen, which would be a clear giveaway that you are not suffering from alopecia.

However, a police constable involved in the case told the Daily Mail that Dunstane claimed he shaved his head because he suffered from bald patches due to alopecia.

How was he caught in the end?

On the day of the crime, the woman whose house was burgled came home to find Dunstane standing in her hallway. After an initial altercation, Dunstane got away and the woman went to the police, after which the e-fit was released showing Dunstane with thick black hair and a beard.

When DNA evidence in the form of saliva was found at the crime scene, police visited Dunstane’s home to arrest him, to find that he had shaved his hair and beard. Whilst he claimed he had done so because he suffered from alopecia, police believe this was a deliberate attempt to obscure his identity after the e-fit was released.

Detective Constable Emma Fields told the Daily Mail, “Ian Dunstane brazenly burgled a house in broad daylight, close to the town centre.

“He was reported to us as having long, greasy hair, but prior to his arrest he had shaved his head. We believe this was a deliberate attempt to disguise his identity after we issued an e-fit matching his description, but he told us he shaved his head as he has alopecia and suffers from bald patches.”

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By Ian Watson

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