Merseyside man gets stolen bike back... after spotting it for sale in Cash Converters shop window

Have you been lucky enough to be reunited with your pride and joy after it was stolen? Share your stories in the comments

by Simon_MacMichael   December 5, 2012  

Wheel from stolen bike © Simon MacMichael.JPG

A Merseyside man whose £700 road bike was stolen in September got it back when he spotted it weeks later for sale in the window of a branch of pawnbrokers and second-hand goods retailer, Cash Converters.

The bike, belonging to Merseytravel train driver Graeme Porterfield, had been stolen from his locked garden shed, reports the Southport Visiter.

"I reported it straight to the police and to my insurance," he told the newspaper.

"Since then I have double locked my back gate and shed and we are now getting an alarm installed because I have two young children and they are a bit scared.

"It is not a nice thing to have happened to us," he added.

The Southport Visiter said that Mr Porterfield discovered his bike when he decided to have a look in Cash Converters on a trip to the shops to collect his wife's mobile phone, which had been in for repair.

"I thought ‘That's my bike’, it was really quite surreal," he explained. "I went in and notified staff member, Phill Bentsey, that the bike in the window was very similar to the one I had stolen.

"They told me that they had just brought it in and advised me to contact the police."

Staff removed the bicycle from sale, with Dave White of Birkdale Cycles, which had sold it to Mr Porterfield, able to give the shop a detailed description that satisfied Cash Converters that he was the rightful owner.

"Cash Converters have been absolutely superb," said Mr Porterfield. "I understand that they had various procedures to go through but they were very professional.

"They took it out of the window and kept my bike in the back until they could be confirmed that it was mine. And by 11:30am on Saturday morning I had my bike back."

In the section of its terms and conditions dealing with selling goods to it, the company says: “At Cash Converters we have a legal obligation to avoid inadvertently buying stolen or defrauded goods from our Customers,” and that to help prevent that “we employ at store level a strict implementation of the CCUK National ID Policy, which will be adhered to on every transaction.”

Phill Bentsey of Cash Converters commented: "It is quite rare that these type of things happen, especially for a customer to see it in the window.

"We lost out on the £160 we paid for the bike, but we got a good result all round, we did everything we could to ensure the owner got his bike back.

"Given the nature of our shop we are very open with the police, who check the serial numbers of games consoles and other items against their files regularly."

Have you ever recovered your bike after it’s been stolen? Let us know your stories in the comments below. Here’s mine to get you started.

We hadn’t planned to go to Brick Lane market in East London that Sunday afternoon. But we hadn’t planned to get our bikes stolen either.

We’d spent a pleasant morning cycling along the canal and turned off at Broadway Market for a quick drink. There was nowhere to park our bikes outside the pub, but there was somewhere we could leave them within sight 50 yards away. We secured both with a cable lock, Not the best, but not the cheapest either.

It took a matter of seconds for the bikes to be stolen. I looked over, they were there. I looked back moments later, they weren’t. Running to the corner where we’d left them, I saw two things; the cable lock, cut clean through, and a van disappearing up the road.

Disconsolate, we prepared to head home – by public transport. I was upset enough about losing my bike, but the loss of my wife’s was worse for sentimental reasons. I’d bought it for her birthday the first year we were together – that, she told me later, was when she realised I wanted her around for keeps.

We weren’t local, but we bumped into a friend who was, who advised us to hotfoot it down to Brick Lane. “You never know,” he said, trying his best to sound convincing.

We went anyway, and rather improbably, the moment we arrived, just as we were deciding where exactly to head, a chap walked into us, wheeling my wife's bike. We asked him to stop and explained it had been stolen less than an hour earlier.

He wasn't happy. He tried telling us that since he'd bought it in good faith, it was his. He asked us to prove it was my wife's - she pointed to the stickers with her initials on the top tube.

He told us he'd only bought it because his daughter's bike had been stolen, and he wanted to get her a replacement. He protested that he should at least get back the money he'd paid for it.

"Fine," I said, dialling on my phone. "Let's get the police to sort it out." The operator said someone would be with us within minutes.

A small crowd had formed. Some of them seemed to know the guy with the bike. Several were urging him to forget the bike and go. He was insistent though that if he couldn't have the bike, he'd at least wait to see if the police could help him get his thirty-five quid back.

If getting my wife's back was improbable, retrieving mine as well was an outrageous stroke of fortune. Just as I was describing it to an officer, I looked up and saw a guy pedalling towards us on it.

Another officer stepped out in the road and signalled to him to stop. His shoulders sagged. He knew the score.

It turned out to be our good luck that the police were conducting an operation that very day targeting not the bike thieves - they were far too slippery to be caught that easily - but the end consumers of the stolen bike trade.

Send out the message that it's unacceptable to buy a bike you suspect has been stolen, they reasoned, and the thieves would have no-one to sell them to. It's a lesson that has to be reinforced week in, week out to be effective, however.

We all headed back to the station together in a police minibus, which made for an interesting journey. The older man, the one we'd discovered with my wife's bike, told the police his own wife was waiting for him in his car and would be wondering where he was.

So we stopped on a street corner while an officer gave her the bananas her husband had bought and explained where they were taking him and why. The look on her face suggested the police would be the least of his worries.

Meanwhile, the younger guy, the one who minutes before had been riding my bike without a care in the world, was getting an earful from his wife, in Italian. Evidently, she'd warned him about the risks of buying a bike that was clearly stolen.

I'd spent the first year of my degree studying Italian neorealism, and toyed with making the observation, in their own language, that the situation was like something out of a latter-day version of Vittorio De Sica's Bicycle Thieves.

I thought better of it, but it would have been worth it to see the look on their faces as they realised their conversation wasn't quite as private as they thought.

Back at the station, we gave our statements. The men who had bought our bikes, we were told, would be charged with handling stolen goods.

We rode off and stopped at a nearby pub. The beer tasted good. And one of us stayed with the bikes at all times.

Still pumped from the unexpected turn of events, it turned into a bit of a celebration. We ended up having to get the train home after all, but we had our bikes with us on the journey.

15 user comments

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As a schoolboy in 1984 I had my pride & joy nicked out the garage full campag nuvo, gp4's the works.Mam & Dad paid the bulk for Christmas £200 the ballance was on the local bike shop "Dentons" book £3 per week. Anyhoo it went the journey, but at school I was informed my bike was seen around a estate not far from my house. So off I went saw some Glue sniffing Tosser on it and attacked him furiously with bottom pole off a swing-ball. Two punctured Wolber juniors and upturned Cinelli bars were my only wounds. Scum 0 little guy 1

nicky

posted by rossi [12 posts]
5th December 2012 - 0:47

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In this case the guy was a dimwit. If he'd simply handed the bike over when asked rather than waiting for the police, he'd have avoided a criminal record:

just as we were deciding where exactly to head, a chap walked into us, wheeling my wife's bike. We asked him to stop and explained it had been stolen less than an hour earlier.

He wasn't happy. He tried telling us that since he'd bought it in good faith, it was his. He asked us to prove it was my wife's - she pointed to the stickers with her initials on the top tube.

He told us he'd only bought it because his daughter's bike had been stolen, and he wanted to get her a replacement. He protested that he should at least get back the money he'd paid for it.

"Fine," I said, dialling on my phone. "Let's get the police to sort it out." The operator said someone would be with us within minutes.

A small crowd had formed. Some of them seemed to know the guy with the bike. Several were urging him to forget the bike and go. He was insistent though that if he couldn't have the bike, he'd at least wait to see if the police could help him get his thirty-five quid back.

OldRidgeback

posted by OldRidgeback [1941 posts]
5th December 2012 - 13:24

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rossi wrote:
As a schoolboy in 1984 I had my pride & joy nicked out the garage full campag nuvo, gp4's the works.Mam & Dad paid the bulk for Christmas £200 the ballance was on the local bike shop "Dentons" book £3 per week. Anyhoo it went the journey, but at school I was informed my bike was seen around a estate not far from my house. So off I went saw some Glue sniffing Tosser on it and attacked him furiously with bottom pole off a swing-ball. Two punctured Wolber juniors and upturned Cinelli bars were my only wounds. Scum 0 little guy 1

Not, presumably, an approach to be recommended or endorsed. But bloody well done anyway!

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posted by Ghedebrav [803 posts]
5th December 2012 - 13:39

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I was reunited with my beloved Saracen nzyme mountain bike after it had been stolen when I was a teenager. A friend of mine spotted it in the river embeded in the reeds a few miles from where we lived.
Turns out a lad who had been recently fostered by a family up the road who my mum had forced me into befriending because she was friends with the family had nicked it.
I clearly didn't try hard enough at being friendly.
He left the following week.

posted by bike_food [86 posts]
5th December 2012 - 13:40

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I lost a hack bike that i'd built in a 'build a bike for £100' challenge. I'd left it at the station and I hadn't locked it up; i never did because it looked like a piece of junk Smile

I got back and it was gone. Assuming it had been nicked I walked home. Six months later I was at the station again and saw it resting in the corner of the stationmaster's office. he'd thought that someone had forgotten to lock their bike and had removed it for safekeeping Smile

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posted by Dave Atkinson [7036 posts]
5th December 2012 - 13:50

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It is worth reflecting on the economics of bicycle theft. There will always be a market for stolen bikes and bike parts, but in London especially this has been over-inflated by the sheer numbers of people who will happily buy gear that, if they gave it any thought at all, they would know to be almost certainly nicked.

What I've never quite understood is how the bike vendors at Brick Lane (and other markets) are allowed to stay in trade, so blatantly hooky is their stockholding.

The harder you make it for theives to sell on bicycles, the less likely it is that they will be stolen in the first place (particularly to the kleptomaniacal degree that they are in London). It's no silver bullet but, y'know, marginal gains and all that.

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posted by Ghedebrav [803 posts]
5th December 2012 - 13:50

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Ghedebrav wrote:
[...]What I've never quite understood is how the bike vendors at Brick Lane (and other markets) are allowed to stay in trade, so blatantly hooky is their stockholding.[...]

Absolutely! The "open market" loophole was plugged almost a decade ago. Perhaps those local might lobby their police commissioner to take action?

posted by Dr_Lex [115 posts]
5th December 2012 - 14:19

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During my misspent youth (2008) I had my bmx stolen from the lamppost I had locked it to whilst at a party. Whilst out running two days later I saw a kid riding my bike (with its custom paint job) around town. Safe to say that the police recognised him and arrested him for theft, but to my disappointment my bike was seized as 'evidence' for the best part of 3 months.

posted by hastings [25 posts]
5th December 2012 - 16:05

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Had a bike nicked from round the back of my house when i was teenager. It was an early mountain bike and quite distinctive.
The moron who nicked it, i was to discover,lived not far away and cycled past my house - i followed him home. He left it unlocked round the back of house.
I just 'nicked' it back!
Ironically it got stolen again. It was locked up in town but the fuckers still got it. I saw some smackhead riding it about 6 months later but it had been run into the ground and wasnt worth taking back.

posted by Some Fella [619 posts]
5th December 2012 - 16:59

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I lost a Sun GT 10XL when I was about 15 after I left it locked up outside the local train station, a very small rural station that was manned by a rather odd and taciturn fellow with ginger sideburns. A week later I spotted the very same bloke on my bike. Thing is, he was cycling past the station that I went to twice every weekday, as he probably could have worked out for himself if he'd managed to scrape together enough braincells to mull it over. Anyway, I got it back. He told the police he'd bought it from a bloke whom he described as average height and build, brown hair, no distinguishing features. Funny that.

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posted by Martin Thomas [562 posts]
5th December 2012 - 20:23

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A friend and colleague had his newish £800 bike stolen from outside our office in Leeds city centre. 2 days later I was walking to work and about half a mile from the office I spotted my friend's bike leaning against a wall. I did a hasty double take and then went to retrieve it, just as the new owner re-appeared.

Luckily he was a visiting polish cyclist that had spotted a bargain the previous day in a Cash Converters, about 5 miles away. Bizarrely, he'd bought it for £30 and ridden it almost back to the scene of the crime.

My mate got his bike back, I got a bottle of wine as a reward, the polish guy got his £30 back and best of all, the numpty thief used his passport as ID to sell it to Cash Converters so he ended up in court.

posted by sgcoates [4 posts]
5th December 2012 - 20:28

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I was moving house and stashed my cheapo singlespeed mountain bike in my friend's garden shed, intending to collect it once all my other stuff was moved.

At some point a couple of scallies seem to have clocked her unloading her (much nicer) mountain bike from her car, and concluded that it must be stashed in the flimsily secured wooden structure in the garden. So they came back later that night, broke the hasp, and nicked my MTB together with her hack bike.

Despite only purchasing it for the princely sum of £100, I was pretty annoyed to be parted from my faithful clunker, and I started doing a bit of detective work, including saving the brand and model as a favourite search on eBay.

Fast forward a couple of weeks and I get an email saying a search result has been returned. I look at the picture and it's my bike. Read the description and it's written in stereotypical thief-speak - "Supa lite biek, hydrolick brakes" etc. He also wants payment via cash on collection. In an impulsive moment, I whack a large bid on it. Then contact the police and give them my crime number, and tell them I've spotted a bike which I'm certain is mine.

A couple more days pass with no response from the police, and I get an email telling me I've won the bike, together with the seller's postcode. I contact the police again to pass on the info, but then I have to go to Scotland for a mate's stag do. The seller contacts me and seems really eager to get payment so I stall him. Over the next few days I get more messages from him saying things like "when u gunna colect m8?" and "da deal is turnin sour".

Finally my case gets passed on to some police officers who appear to have an interest in sorting it. They tell me that there's a "known address" within the postcode I've been given, and they're planning to go and search it. A few hours later I get a call and they've recovered my bike, along with a couple of others.

They ask what evidence I can produce to prove that it's mine, and I immediately feel like a massive numpty for not taking down the serial number. So I describe it as best I can, including various stickers, the one black spoke in the back wheel (I didn't have any spare silver ones) and the top cap with my name on it that I got for entering a mountain bike race. Incredibly the thief hasn't changed this, so after giving a short statement, I'm wheeling my bike out of the station.

My friend got her hack bike back separately after it was found abandoned. I never found out what happened to the thief.

posted by Mr Agreeable [111 posts]
5th December 2012 - 21:08

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I have a similar story concerning Brick Lane:

About a month ago, my girlfriend and I biked to a bakery near London fields station where we locked our bikes on a lamppost. When we came out of the shop not even ten minutes later, our bikes were gone, and the remains of the locks showed that a bolt cutter had been used to steal the bikes.

We immediately called the Police who were kind and helpful. After that, and on our own initiative, we immediately walked to Sclater Street near Brick Lane Market where, as we know, many stolen bikes are sold on Sundays. When we arrived, we indeed found one of the bikes very soon; the other one had been sold already. We called the Police who were kind and helpful but could do nothing at all about the fence who had sold / was trying to sell the bike(s).

What can we learn from this?

Had we not called the police immediately after the theft, and had we instead taken a taxi to Sclater Street / Brick Lane, we would probably have arrived before the thieves - which means we could most probably have found both bikes instead of only one.

It's quite a scandal that the council allows the sale of used bikes on their markets. Yes, the guy in question had an official stall.

Falco

posted by Falco [3 posts]
6th December 2012 - 11:50

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Ghedebrav wrote:
It is worth reflecting on the economics of bicycle theft. There will always be a market for stolen bikes and bike parts, but in London especially this has been over-inflated by the sheer numbers of people who will happily buy gear that, if they gave it any thought at all, they would know to be almost certainly nicked.

What I've never quite understood is how the bike vendors at Brick Lane (and other markets) are allowed to stay in trade, so blatantly hooky is their stockholding.

The harder you make it for theives to sell on bicycles, the less likely it is that they will be stolen in the first place (particularly to the kleptomaniacal degree that they are in London). It's no silver bullet but, y'know, marginal gains and all that.

Exactly! It's no wonder bikes are often stolen on a Sunday: It happened FIVE times since 2008 to my girlfriend and me in London's East End. It's ideal for the thieves, they immediately ride off to Brick Lane and sell the bikes within minutes. SHAME! on the councils to allow the sale of "used" bikes on their markets. But well, it's the "free market", innit, eh?

posted by Falco [3 posts]
6th December 2012 - 11:57

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Angry

posted by Falco [3 posts]
6th December 2012 - 11:58

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