Police in Plymouth are searching for a cross-dressing fuel thief who has carried out 29 offences over a two-year period, but they are not sure whether they are looking for a man or a woman.

The suspect has adopted a range of disguises but the one constant in all the offences has been a silver Vauxhall Zafira, displaying a range of cloned number plates.

The disguises have included a variety of wigs and in 19 of the cases witnesses said the suspect was a woman, but in a further seven cases it was reported to be a man, with a further three cases where the gender was indeterminate.

The first offence was at an Esso service station in Plymouth in 2012 and since then thefts have occurred at Texaco, Esso and Morrisons service stations, each time stealing between £55 and £85 of fuel.

Police have now released CCTV images in a bid to catch the thief.

Detective constable Zara Payne of Devon and Cornwall Police, who is heading the investigation, said: “The most frequent report is of a woman, sometimes in a long blonde wig, or a short bob-cut wig, or wearing a beanie hat or hoody.

“But while the same car has been reported at each of the 29 incidents, on a few occasions the victims say they think the driver was a man. We’re keeping an open mind and seeing as this woman appears to go to great lengths to disguise herself, it may well be her impersonating a man.

“What is very clear is over the past two or more years, this woman has stolen thousands of pounds worth of fuel. It’s quite possible she hasn’t paid a penny for her fuel in the last couple of years.

“She’s very brazen about it, sometimes returning to the same location two or three times within a few months.

“These thefts are not spur of the moment. We know she is going prepared, with a set of disguises which she carries with her in the car.”