Windsor women searching for bag stolen on Via Rail

Stacey Hooper and Lauren Smith were coming back to Windsor from London on Via Rail when someone took off with Smith's bag during a stop in Chatham.

Suspect is described as a thin white woman with blond hair who is about 5'4" inches tall

Lauren Smith, right, accompanied her friend Stacey Hooper, left, on a trip to London for a doctor's visit. On the return trip home on VIA Rail Smith's bag was stolen. (Stacey Janzer/CBC)

Stacey Hooper and Lauren Smith were returning home from a doctor's visit in London Saturday when a woman swiped Smith's bag right off a Via train as it stopped in Chatham. 

Smith had taken time off work to accompany Hooper to a doctor's visit — years ago she was in a serious car accident that left one of her hands paralyzed.

At the terminal in London, Hooper said a woman sat a seat away from her and started a conversation. She said some of the questions the woman were asking were strange, which made Hooper watch the woman a little more closely.

Police investigating theft

Then the woman began "looking over everybody's stuff" before the train arrived, according to Hooper.

"When we got closer to the Chatham drop-off I noticed her start to move seats slowly toward the back and ended up right by the luggage," she said.

As the train stopped at the station Hooper rose to get closer to the luggage, worried about her bag containing a $10,000 machine to treat her hand. As Hooper stood up, she was momentarily distracted but when she looked again toward the luggage the woman was gone and her friend's bag was missing.

Stacey Hooper and Lauren Smith were coming back to Windsor from London on VIA Rail when someone took off with Smith's bag during a stop in Chatham. 0:26

"I searched everywhere," Smith said. "I started pulling bags out thinking that it was behind there, but there were only four or five bags."

Clothing, toiletries and some gifts from Smith's birthday were the contents of the pink-and-plaid Burberry bag, which had been a present from her mother.

"I tried to pry the [car] door open, but they wouldn't let us off the train," Smith said.

VIA Rail provided the photo to Hooper to help in the search for the luggage. (Facebook/Stacey Lynn)

At that point the women called Chatham police. Police say they responded to the call, but were unable to find the suspect. They describe the woman as white, thin, with blond hair and about 5'4" inches tall.

Officials say the investigation is continuing, but that's not enough for Smith and Hooper.

"I hope the police and Via Rail don't just put this off because it's baggage," Smith said. "It might be baggage to you guys, but not to us. There is sentimental things in there and things I can't get back."

The pair added Via was helpful in getting a photo of the suspect and has since reached out online to help find the baggage.

Spokesperson for Via, Mylène Bélanger, sent an emailed statement to CBC News about the incident.

"We are sincerely sorry for the inconvenience caused by this incident. VIA Rail takes this situation seriously and is cooperating with local authorities who are conducting the investigation. No other incident of this type has been reported," it read.

Calls for luggage to be protected

Smith wants to see a change in the way Via deals with luggage.

"I think that they need to have security," she said. "I expected something more than just an open cargo space, right at the entrance for anyone to grab and bounce."

It's only been a few days but the pair continue to reach out to police, Via Rail and social media to find the stolen bag. Smith isn't happy about the situation and doesn't have friendly words for the person who took the luggage.

"She took the wrong bag and we will find her."