- Petru and Ancuta Neagu spent a weekend begging around Hyde Park
- The Romanian couple earned £800 to send back to their children at home
- After spending the morning begging, the pair had lunch in Hyde Park
- They flew in to Luton on a cheap flight and are due to leave in the new year
|Ancuta and Petru Neagu: She is expecting their fifth child next spring|
It’s their haul from a weekend’s begging outside the shops of famous Oxford Street and it has certainly been worth it.
The Daily Mail watched as Petru and Ancuta Neagu, aged 29 and 25, filled out the MoneyGram forms to transfer the money to their home city of Iasi in eastern Romania, where their four children, aged between one and seven, live.
Soon there will be another mouth to feed, for Ancuta will give birth to a fifth baby next spring.
Within half an hour of sending the cash to Ancuta’s mother, who is looking after her grandchildren, Petru was out begging again. He sat on the pavement at the entrance to Selfridges food hall, while Ancuta went shopping at Sainsbury’s for the couple’s lunch.
With his hand out, Petru called out to passers-by and, occasionally, waved – incongruously – a pink walking stick in the air as if to show he had difficulty walking.
Yet nothing could be further from the truth. At noon he got up and – showing no sign of a limp – met up with Ancuta. The couple then walked to Hyde Park, a hundred yards away, for a picnic on the grass.
It was there we caught up with the couple, who said they had only been in Britain for two days after flying in on a low-cost £38 flight to Luton.
They posed for photographs, explaining that it was expensive to keep the children, and that they had no other way of making a living apart from begging.
‘My children are hungry and I have to live with my mother who is blind. There is no work for us gipsies in Iasi and we have nothing.’
When I suggested that begging in London was rather lucrative compared with working in Romania with an average monthly wage of £176, she responded glibly: ‘It is very hard for us. We have to sit outside all day, and the police come and chase us away.’
Then she added deceptively: ‘We only make a few pounds a day.’
When I asked where she kept her and her husband’s clothes, she pointed to a bank of telephone boxes at the side of Hyde Park which were full of prams, suitcases and other paraphernalia belonging to them and other Roma who beg there.
It means they do not have to find accommodation, but sleep anywhere they can at night, including a pavement outside a nearby primary school, which has now turned on its water sprinklers (designed to clean the pavements outside) in the small hours to stop the gipsies sleeping there.
The school has put up signs, in Romanian, to warn them they are in danger of getting drenched.
Petru and Ancuta may, however, have difficulty in reading them as the school translated them into Romanian from English using Google.
Our translator said that the message was not in clear Romanian, and that anyway most of the Roma are illiterate.
However, this couple, with one of their friends, did not have much trouble filling in the forms at the Post Office.
Ancuta explained, pulling her red jacket over her swollen stomach as we waved goodbye: ‘We know how to send money back because that is why we’re here begging.
‘If we couldn’t do that, there would not be any point in being here.’
As for their plans for the future, Ancuta said they would return to Romania in a few days when they had made ‘enough money’.
She did not rule out the possibility of returning in the New Year as the stores get crowded with shoppers who have plenty of cash and are full of festive spirit. ‘It is a good time for us to come to Britain begging,’ she said.