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Christian Dior

'I was a thief': Jewel-pilfering woman reflects on life

Doris Payne exudes a seemingly effortless elegance, her white hair neatly smoothed back and gold hoops dangling from her ears. She speaks calmly and deliberately, inspiring the kind of trust that would ease any jewelry store employee eager to make a high-dollar sale.

And that's exactly how authorities say the 85-year-old has managed to walk off with pricey jewels in countless thefts around the world over six decades.

Asked about her exploits, she speaks in broad terms laced with insinuation, refusing to give specifics of how she selects a target or what she says to them.

"I don't dictate what happens when I walk in the store. The people in charge dictate what...