I caught a gang of thieves as they got up to their old tricks

A CRIME-busting magician has told how he snared a gang of sneak thieves by bamboozling them with sleight of hand until the police showed up to arrest them.

Fringe performer David Alnwick said he entranced a gang of yobs with close-up magic for around five minutes while waiting nervously for police.

The 22-year-old recognised the crooks from CCTV footage he saw of them stealing his friend's laptop from a cloakroom just days earlier and made his move while they were again prowling for loot.

Mr Alnwick said he had been flyering on Cowgate when he identified one of the gang acting as a "spotter" outside a nightspot while his two accomplices slipped inside.

He said: "When I saw a couple of them sneak into this bar, leaving their mate on guard, I realised that if we could distract him for long enough they might still be there by the time the police could get to us.

"I'd seen CCTV footage which showed four young lads walking off with our stuff some days before.

"We reported it to the police and carried on with the rest of the run, thinking little of it until towards the end of the Fringe when we spotted the lads we'd seen on the CCTV hanging around outside the venue.

"I'd done street magic before so I walked up to the lad on guard and asked him if he'd like to see some magic.

"Perhaps surprisingly in the circumstances, he was up for it and was soon so confounded that he and his mates were still standing there when the police arrived.

"My heart was pounding and all I was thinking was 'just keep going with the tricks'.

"I have to confess I took great pleasure in asking him 'is this your card?' at the precise moment he was ushered into the back of the police car." Following his crime-fighting magic last year, the Liverpool-based performer has returned to Edinburgh this year for a run at the PBH Free Fringe.

"My thinking was that if I could use magic to catch criminals I could definitely write and perform my own show in 2011," he said.

Mr Alnwick's comedy and magic show, Totally Ninja, is being hosted at Belushi's in Market Street from August 6-27 at 4.50pm.

Meanwhile, a comedian and dancer who fell in love at last year's festival are to return with their own show.

Yorkshire-based stand-up, James Christopher met dancer Trixie Passion after one of his shows and they have teamed up to perform together this time round.