Railway staff catch thieves stealing bike - and let them get on with it

Men challenged as they prepared to cut lock with bolt cutters - explanation that they'd lost key was accepted

by Simon_MacMichael   February 18, 2014  

Ollie the tea-leaf

A woman whose bike was stolen from a train station is appealing for help in tracking down the thieves - who were challenged by railway staff as they prepared to cut the lock with bolt cutters, but were allowed to carry on with the crime after their explanation that they had lost the key to the lock was accepted.

The victim of the theft, an NHS worker named Kate, has cycled to Nuneaton station as part of her commute to Rugby for two years, reports the Nuneaton News.

But when she arrived at the station on her way home on Wednesday 5 February, her mountain bike, an Apollo Elusion given to her a few weeks earlier as a 30th birthday present  from her father, was missing.

It's something that sadly happens to many cyclists each day. What makes this incident different, though, is that the bike was stolen after station staff had challenged the thieves and let them carry on with cutting the lock and steal the bike.

"I left my bicycle, as normal in the indoor bike rack at 8.10am," said Kate, who did not want to disclose her surname.

"I then returned to the station at 5pm and my bike was gone.

"I approached a London Midland member of staff and asked about my bike and he was expecting me.

"He said at 12.17pm someone came in and when approached staff said they had forgotten their key and were able to walk out of the station with my bike.

"The British Transport Police later told me two men on bikes actually came in to the station.

"When asked by train station staff what they were doing, the men told the staff they had lost the key.

"The men had bolt croppers and the staff let them cut the lock and steal the bike - which is a female bike.

"I'm aware when you leave a bike it's at the owner's risk, but to let someone blatantly steal it in the middle of the day is appalling."

She added: "I would appeal to anyone who knows the whereabouts of the bicycle or who knows the two men who stole it to contact PC Godhania from the British Transport Police."

A spokesperson for London Midland commented: "The circumstances surrounding the theft of this bicycle are extremely unfortunate, and sadly both London Midland staff and the owner of the bicycle appear to have fallen victim to a cruel but clever con.

"This is now a matter for the police and we will support their investigation fully."

Anyone who has information regarding the theft is asked to contact British Transport Police by on 0800 40 50 40 or texting 61016, or the charity Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111.

37 user comments

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Doesn't really require extensive security training does it? Bolt-cutters = ask for ID and ask if they would mind waiting twenty minutes for Transport Police to be present.

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posted by dafyddp [139 posts]
18th February 2014 - 13:57

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gb901 wrote:
Not that clever a con - stupid London Midland staff more like!

Exactly that.

I wonder where you'd stand with your insurance in a situation like that, and whether the station would accept any liability for essentially permitting the theft?

posted by parksey [168 posts]
18th February 2014 - 14:07

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You get a brand new bike worth £X00 and you leave it all day at a train station? Hard lesson to learn. Chances of getting her bike back? Virtually zero.

If you are doing a commute and have to leave a bike locked up all day, I would recommend you buy a bike from Decathlon for around £100. If it gets nicked, it's not the end of the world. Indeed, I know of several cyclists in London who estimate that their bike will get nicked once every six months and factor it in as the cost of commuting. It's still cheaper than the Tube.

I know this isn't how things should be but sadly it is the reality.

posted by Tom Amos [232 posts]
18th February 2014 - 14:14

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Erh, two men and one female bike? Confused

posted by Yorkshie Whippet [271 posts]
18th February 2014 - 14:19

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Tom Amos wrote:
You get a brand new bike worth £X00 and you leave it all day at a train station? Hard lesson to learn. Chances of getting her bike back? Virtually zero.

If you are doing a commute and have to leave a bike locked up all day, I would recommend you buy a bike from Decathlon for around £100.

Obviously a pragmatic approach, but I don't think it is too much to ask that we are able to park cycles without risk of them being stolen, especially as she took the time to use the "indoor cycle rack" and there were staff around.

posted by RedfishUK [40 posts]
18th February 2014 - 14:23

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Tom Amos wrote:
You get a brand new bike worth £X00 and you leave it all day at a train station? Hard lesson to learn. Chances of getting her bike back? Virtually zero.

If you are doing a commute and have to leave a bike locked up all day, I would recommend you buy a bike from Decathlon for around £100. If it gets nicked, it's not the end of the world. Indeed, I know of several cyclists in London who estimate that their bike will get nicked once every six months and factor it in as the cost of commuting. It's still cheaper than the Tube.

I know this isn't how things should be but sadly it is the reality.

This sounds a little like victim blaming to me. The poor woman left her (womens') bike locked in a specific facility at a manned station. If a lesson has been learnt hopefully it is by the station staff. Well done on intervening but they should then have asked for ID, called the BTP and taken photos of the thieves. I think someone should be able to use their bike and not expect it to be nicked every six months.

By the way, I've cycled in London for over a decade, including a few years of commuting almost every day by bike and locking it up on the street. I have never had a bike pinched. This includes a brand new Scott that cost "£X00" and a very pretty Bianchi that probably drew some attention. I hope that if anyone was next to my bike with a pair of bolt cutters someone from the coffee shop next door might ask why and say their calling the police, just to make sure.

posted by Coleman [329 posts]
18th February 2014 - 14:34

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a female bike? I know that some people like to give their bikes feminine names, but am fairly sure they still have no gender...

posted by andyp [783 posts]
18th February 2014 - 14:34

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Take a photo and ask to see ID, nice and simple, something a genuine bike owner wouldn't mind and common sense - something sadly lacking from these station workers!

posted by AyBee [57 posts]
18th February 2014 - 14:52

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Tom Amos wrote:
You get a brand new bike worth £X00 and you leave it all day at a train station? Hard lesson to learn. Chances of getting her bike back? Virtually zero.

If you are doing a commute and have to leave a bike locked up all day, I would recommend you buy a bike from Decathlon for around £100. If it gets nicked, it's not the end of the world. Indeed, I know of several cyclists in London who estimate that their bike will get nicked once every six months and factor it in as the cost of commuting. It's still cheaper than the Tube.

I know this isn't how things should be but sadly it is the reality.

Apollo Elusion, £260 from Halfords. Not the model I'd advise someone to buy for riding to the train station, but cheap enough. Any cheaper (new) and it's not likely to be reliable.

two wheels good; four wheels bad

posted by cat1commuter [1321 posts]
18th February 2014 - 14:53

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"cruel but clever con"?

Hardly Oceans's Eleven was it?!! Laughing

posted by sorebones [103 posts]
18th February 2014 - 14:56

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Seems as if the staff need better training/guidelines.

I wouldn't say they were stupid - if they aren't cyclists, and have never thought about the issue or been told anything about how to deal with such situations, then they just got caught out and made the wrong call.

However, that the spokesperson calls this a 'clever con' (what the blazes would a 'dumb con' look like, if just claiming "we're allowed to do this" is 'clever'?) gives one no confidence that the management have learned anything from this at all.

In a better world what they would have said something like:

"we failed to give staff sensible guidelines on what to do in such a situation and hence, in their confusion, they believed a story which, in retrospect, rather obviously should not have been accepted without substantiation - we apologise for this. Be assured everyone here now understands this issue and appropriate procedures are in place for what to do in such a situation"

Wonder if its legal liability concerns or ineptitude that meant they instead come up with that nonsense about 'a clever con'?

Having said all that - how _do_ you distinguish between a thief and someone who is actually retrieving their own bike?

posted by FluffyKittenofT... [618 posts]
18th February 2014 - 15:18

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FluffyKittenofTindalos wrote:
Having said all that - how _do_ you distinguish between a thief and someone who is actually retrieving their own bike?

As has been suggested above, ask them if they are happy for you to (a) take their picture (b) see some identification/proof of address, for you to keep with the picture and/or (c) call the police to witness the removal. They'll soon wander off with an excuse as to why not.

The rail staff won't be liable (there is no general duty to stop a crime from happening) but it would be nice if they had followed through on their initial action. Oh well, next time.

posted by step-hent [644 posts]
18th February 2014 - 15:26

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I knew my comment would attract criticism!

A couple of points for the record. I feel sorry for this girl. I'm not blaming her. Bike theft is wrong. As the owner of a two grand road bike, I hate bike thieves.

But, having said all that, the concept that you can lock your bike securely and return to find it intact in London is not realistic. If thieves can't nick the bike, they will take parts from it. I've got di2 shifters on my bike. How am I supposed to lock those up?

Anyhow, my earlier comment was merely my opinion. Didn't mean to offend anyone.

Safe riding!

posted by Tom Amos [232 posts]
18th February 2014 - 15:28

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Comments about two men next to a women's bike - may be harsh (depending on the bike) to expect train station staff to know the difference between a men's bike and a women's bike.

It's all a bit unfortunate but that's life. It's well documented that someone just asking the question 'is that your bike' is rare enough. I am surprised the BR staff even went that far to be honest.

The previous comment about asking if they don't mind their photo taken is a good idea, especially with ID.

Asolare

posted by Goldfever4 [165 posts]
18th February 2014 - 16:37

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dafyddp wrote:
Doesn't really require extensive security training does it? Bolt-cutters = ask for ID and ask if they would mind waiting twenty minutes for Transport Police to be present.

A thousand times this.

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posted by seven [90 posts]
18th February 2014 - 17:46

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I have to blame the staff at the station. It seems plain common sense not to allow people to use bolt cutters on a bike lock until they have actually proved beyond doubt that it is their bike and more importantly their lock.

Any genuine person that had a bike that they lost the keys for would almost certainly ask in advance about releasing the bike before turning up with the croppers.

Sheer unmitigated incompetence. And to say this was a clever con just compounds matters. It was just a simple lie that the staff dumbly accepted without question. There is just no clever about it.

Cycling is like a church - many attend, but few understand.

posted by oozaveared [496 posts]
18th February 2014 - 18:14

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I have had to cut my own locks twice or three times after losing keys or breaking them off in the lock. I wasn't challenged, but obviously I would not in the least have minded being asked for ID or photographed or being asked to come back and collect the bike from the stationmaster's office in a week's time.

I would, however, have been miffed if I had been challenged mainly on the basis that I was a woman cutting the lock of a diamond-frame bike that was obviously only meant to be ridden by a man (especially given that the frame was a few sizes too big for me.) Lots of men ride step-through frames and lots of women ride diamond frames, it comes down to ease of getting on/off versus how uncomfortable the geometry is when actually riding. Gender stereotyping here isn't useful.

posted by bambergbike [84 posts]
18th February 2014 - 18:26

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used to work with a professional lock-smith

he had a legitimate side-line in releasing locked bikes where owners had lost their keys but could prove ownership of said bike

he said to me, on a number of occasions, "don't lock up a bike you wish to retrieve in the future".

in other words, if it has value (to anyone, I have seen 'beater' bikes with seized derailleur gears stolen) then don't leave it on the street...

posted by hampstead_bandit [111 posts]
18th February 2014 - 18:42

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It's a sad world but if your going to leave something that can be made readily portable out of your sight, make sure it's something you can a) afford to lose and/or b) of no emotional value.

If I had to leave a commuter at a railway station it would be made of parts scrounged from the scrapyard.

This does not in any way excuse the station staff from not at least asking for some proof of i.d. They clearly thought something was wrong or they wouldn't have challenged the thieves in the first place.

Also. "Items left at own risk" - Didn't think that affected your statuary rights or the stations 'duty of care'. Anyone out there work in the legal profession?

posted by levermonkey [308 posts]
18th February 2014 - 18:53

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Tom Amos wrote:

But, having said all that, the concept that you can lock your bike securely and return to find it intact in London is not realistic.

The story is about a bike theft in Nuneaton, not London. People steal bikes everywhere. My experience in London over 25 years is only one theft and that was when I used a terrible lock because I was 'only going to be five minutes'. I won't be making that mistake again although I did get my bike back.

posted by Pauldmorgan [154 posts]
18th February 2014 - 18:54

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IMO the train staff are completely liable for this. They did nothing to see proof of ownership, except taking the word of a couple of pikey scumbags. They should be sacked from their jobs for being a couple of dumb-arses and the lady in question should take them to court for a failure of duty.

In fact, why has BR not bought the lady a replacement bike as a sign of good customer service?

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posted by MikeOnABike [23 posts]
18th February 2014 - 19:54

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well there have only been 6 (now 7 of course) reported bike thefts from Nuneaton train station in the past year & there is supposed to be CCTV monitoring as well, so it should have been a reasonably safe location to leave a bike.

though I suspect the station staff didnt fall for the "clever con" at all, and its just they are simply discouraged from tackling criminals in the act like this by themselves, and instead reported it to the BTP/police, who by the time they arrived, were too late. But hence why the staff were expecting Kate, or the owner of that bike to turn up at some point, as else until Kate reported it stolen, they wouldnt have known that it was.

but it would be the same in the high street, if you saw two people with bolt croppers next to a bike, you might ask what they were doing, but if you had any suspicions about it, youd call the police, you wouldnt try and tackle them by yourself in most cases.

posted by Awavey [10 posts]
18th February 2014 - 20:13

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Plain old cowardice by the staff. Non confrontational, Pretty much reflects the nation really......As Dionne Warwick said "walk on by" or Sybil depending on your era.

The trouble with real life is that there is no danger music.

The Cable Guy

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posted by Cyclist [124 posts]
18th February 2014 - 20:29

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levermonkey wrote:
If I had to leave a commuter at a railway station it would be made of parts scrounged from the scrapyard.

Can argue that's what she did do...[bike snob...]

http://matmitchellcycling.wordpress.com
The usual new 4th Cat blog with some stuff about Pros too.

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posted by mtm_01 [90 posts]
19th February 2014 - 9:41

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My first thought was "What were the staff supposed to do about it? Call them liars?" but quite a few commenters have already posted perfectly sensible answers to that; taking photos, checking IDs, etc.

So I imagine the station staff...
a) ...(like me) weren't quick witted enough to insist on these measures and...
b) ...(more importantly) were not aware of a clear well-circulated formal policy of what to do in the event of forced removal of bikes from the stands.

My understanding is that these days all stations are run by train companies. London Midland in this case. So would it not be a positive move for someone - CTC or a similar cycling organisation or even road.cc - to ask all train companies what their policy is in cases like this (if they even have one).

The same question could be asked of any organisation providing cycle stands, if they are large enough to reasonably expect them to have security staff. eg Universities, councils, etc.

This wouldn't get Kate's bike back but it might help avoid similar farcical situations in the future.

posted by pmanc [112 posts]
19th February 2014 - 16:01

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levermonkey wrote:
Also. "Items left at own risk" - Didn't think that affected your statuary rights or the stations 'duty of care'. Anyone out there work in the legal profession?

I do. Highly unlikely they would be liable - a duty of care relates to their own acts, and they didn't steal the bike or cause it to be stolen in any real sense. The thieves did that. There is no general duty to prevent crime, so they did nothing technically wrong - and actually started doing the right thing, which should be applauded. It's just a shame they didnt follow through what they started.

In any event, making them liable is unlikely to have a positive effect - the most likely outcome is that cycle parking would be removed from station premises (where at least there are usually people, and CCTV) to somewhere else out of the way, in order avoid future liability. Bike theft at railway stations is so common that insurance policies commonly exclude it - it's unlikely the station operators would be prepared to continue to take that risk.

posted by step-hent [644 posts]
19th February 2014 - 18:06

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Kryptonite NY series locks.

Quite affordable (I've got two and they were around $50 US each) and come with a form of insurance policy valid anywhere except the Netherlands. In this case, they'd probably accept this news article as proof that the lock failed.

I had a commuter bike that cost me $8 US for years. Every time I locked it up (with cheap $8 lock, see above), that lock would show signs of being hit with hammers, fiddled with bolt cutters etc.

One day, the lock seized up ($8 FTW) and I cut the lock off with a hacksaw. In public view.

In that country, at that time, there were no bike locking facilities next to public transport stations. I believe that half of the picking attempts were by station staff who would have thrown it in the garbage...

Takes all sorts...

posted by eschelar [32 posts]
20th February 2014 - 1:28

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"London Midland staff and the owner of the bicycle appear to have fallen victim to a cruel but clever con."

cruel but clever?
what?
clever??!

only if your thick as shit!

Feel the fear and do it anyway

hood's picture

posted by hood [111 posts]
20th February 2014 - 11:47

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How do I prove a bike I am about to cut through the lock of, is
actually mine?

didds

posted by didds [41 posts]
20th February 2014 - 17:52

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I could prove it quite easily, with one of the many photos of my bikes I have on my phone.

I appreciate not everyone is as pathetic as me, though.

posted by Nick T [738 posts]
20th February 2014 - 18:15

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