Police investigating an incident in which a gang of young men pushed a cyclist into a canal in west London last month say they that at least five other cyclists have suffered a similar fate in recent weeks, with the same gang believed to be responsible.
All of the incidents took place in February on the Paddington Arm of the Grand Union Canal, including two bike riders pushed into the water on the same evening. The victims in the latest attacks revealed by police were all men aged between 35 and 49 years.
The Metropolitan Police says it has stepped up uniformed patrols as well as enforcing a dispersal order from 25 to 27 February under which they could disperse groups of people who were suspected of anti-social behaviour or committing criminal offences.
Officers launched their initial appeal after Peter Bettell, aged 53, was shoved into the canal on the evening of 23 February as he rode home to his narrowboat along the towpath.
He was rescued from the water near Brindley House, Alfred Road by a young woman and taken to hospital to have cuts and bruises treated.
He subsequently said that parts of the towpath were becoming “no-go areas” and that he planned to leave London and commute into his job in the West End.
According to police, the other incidents took place on the following dates and times:
5 February at 21:18 hrs, at the Grand Union Canal
10 February at 18:15 hrs, at Harrow Road at the junction with Westbourne Park
11 February at 19:18 hrs at the Grand Union Canal
11 February at 20:45 hrs at the Grand Union Canal
17 February at 18:00 hrs, near Brindley House, Alfred Road.
They described the suspects as “black males, aged in their late teens or early 20s,” and added that there had been no further reported incidents since the night on which Mr Bettell was attacked.
Inspector Anna Brennan, the head of the Safer Neighbourhoods team in Westminster, said: “These incidents have been very unpleasant for the victims, who may have not suffered particularly serious injuries, but have been left frightened and highly traumatised by what has happened to them.
“I would appeal directly to the persons responsible for these attacks to give serious thought to what they did, and just how dangerous it is. Pushing strangers into a canal is not funny, and could have very serious consequences.
“Whilst the water is not particularly deep, it is still very dangerous for anyone who cannot swim or anyone who has suffered an injury. One victim had his feet clipped into his pedals which made getting out of the water very difficult.
“Our work to reassure people using the area around the canal continues and officers are out patrolling and speaking to people and we are reviewing CCTV,” she added.
“I would appeal to anyone with information about who is responsible, or witnesses who have not previously come forward and spoken to the police, to do so as soon as possible on 101, or to remain anonymous, call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.”
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.