Metropolitan Police are appealing for help tracing men responsible for a series of knifepoint robberies targeting Hackney towpath users in four separate, brutal incidents in as many days.
On Tuesday 1 August two cyclists were mugged just minutes apart, while a further two robberies took place on Wednesday and Friday. People are warned to be careful using the Lea River towpath, in the E5 area, over the weekend, and not to approach the men as they may be armed.
Assailants, described as black men in their late teens and early twenties, sometimes riding mountain bikes, assaulted and threatened to stab victims, and stole phones, wallets and jewellery.
Detective Inspector Paul Ridley, from Hackney CID, is leading the investigation. He said: “The brutality the robbers have used is very concerning, holding a knife to the throat of one of the terrified victims and subjecting others to violent attacks.
“The robbers appear to be targeting canal path users which provides rapid access and escape routes, particularly when using a cycle.”
The first attack took place at 22:15 on Tuesday 1 August, when a 31 year old man was approached heading onto the towpath by the Crescent Rowing Club by four young men on mountain bikes.
The men, described as black and between 18 and 23 years old, had their faces covered with scarves, and their hoods up. They blocked the victim’s path, before demanding his property and pin number, and rifling through his pockets, repeatedly punching him in the face and threatening to stab him. They stole his phone and wallet. He made his way to a nearby pub after the attack and raised the alarm.
Within a few minutes a second victim was approached by a group of men, also described as black, who pushed him off his bike by High Hill Ferry, E5, and punched and kicked him as he lay on the ground. They stole some of his possessions, including a bank card, watch, silver crucifix and his house keys. He flagged down a passer-by who contacted police.
At 23:30 the following day, Wednesday 2 August, three men walking near Springfield Marina were approached by three black men, in their teens to early twenties, riding bikes. The victims were all assaulted, and one had a large kitchen knife held to his throat. Their phones and bank cards were stolen.
The fourth offence occurred at 00:10 on Friday 4 August, when a 39-year-old man was cycling close to the Crescent Rowing Club. He was approached by a group of men on bikes. They allowed him to pass, and then tried to chase him, but he managed to get away.
DI Ridley said: “The canal towpath is likely to be busy, especially over the course of the weekend. Please remain vigilant and if you see any individuals of concern, call police immediately. Do not attempt to challenge the robbers, there is a distinct possibility they will be armed.
“If you have been the victim at the hands of these men and have not already informed us, please come forward. I would also like to appeal to the boating community in the area to inform my investigation team if they have any information.
“I would like to reassure residents that patrols have been stepped up and officers are on alert.”
The River Lea has been targeted by muggers a number of time over recent years, with police repeatedly having to step up patrols to protect those using the towpath to get home at night. High Hill Ferry was recently made part of one of London's Quietways, which runs from Walthamstow to Bloomsbury.
Anyone with information is asked to contact Hackney CID via 101 or via Twitter @MetCC quoting operation name ‘Glanford’.
To give information anonymously call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 or visit crimestoppers-uk.org