The 77-year-old man had just visited his local Barclays Bank at the junction of Whitechapel Road and Sidney Street in Whitechapel, to withdraw several thousands of pounds.
His 72-year-old wife, to whom he had been married for 57 years, had died just days before and he needed the money to cover the funeral bills. The incident took place on Monday June 27, but details have only just been disclosed.
Detectives believe the robbers had spotted him in the bank before following him along Whitechapel Road, close to the Royal London Hospital.
As he turned away from the main road one of the robbers, dressed in a smart grey suit, put his arms around the pensioner’s neck and forced the money free from his arms.
Officers have spent hours studying CCTV covering the area and managed to track the pair calmly hailing a black cab and escaping the scene.
The cab driver remembers the male initially hailed a cab and then went to pick up the female behind Whitechapel hospital.
Police have issued descriptions of the two people they are seeking: a white man, aged in his late 20s or early 30s, 6ft tall, slim build with dark-coloured hair sleeked back with a visible parting. He wore a light grey suit with a light-coloured shirt.
His female accomplice was also aged in her late 20s or early 30s, between 5ft 6in and 5ft 7in in height with blonde hair. She wore a white scoop-neck top. She was also wearing dark coloured knee length shorts
Detective Constable Alex Saxby, the investigating officer, said: “This is a particularly despicable crime made even worse by the fact that the victim was already mourning the very recent death of his wife. ”Thankfully, due to financial assistance of family and friends, the victim was able to find a way to cover the cost of the funeral, but it is hard to imagine the impact this robbery must have had at such a difficult time.
“I can only appeal to the public for help so that we can prevent the same fate befalling another entirely innocent victim.”
Anyone with information about the incident is asked to call the Incident Room at Bethnal Green Police Station on 020 8217 4162; Alternatively, to remain anonymous, call 0800 555 11