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Cyclist fights off moped gang bike thieves armed with angle grinder

"I thought I was in danger": The 70-year-old managed to keep hold of his £2,500 Brompton while surrounded by "angle grinder-wielding rustlers"...

A London cyclist, confronted by four blacked-out bike thieves armed with an angle grinder who attempted to steal his Brompton outside a cafe in broad daylight, has told of how "depressing" the brazen attack was, advising others who are targeted to "make lots of noise and take loads of pictures".

Ben Derbyshire, an architect who is the former president of the Royal Institute for British Architects (RIBA), told the Evening Standard he had been left "shaken" by the incident, which happened on Friday morning as he ate with his son and daughter at El Ganso cafe in Hackney.

Mr Derbyshire reported hearing "commotion down the street" as the two moped riders, each with a passenger on the back, came along "making a racket, revving and basically being as intimidating as possible".

They were all dressed in black and used an angle grinder to begin cutting through the D-lock on his daughter's bike in an attempt to get at his £2,500 Brompton, also locked to the rack outside the cafe.

Having run out to confront the gang, Mr Derbyshire quickly felt "in danger", ending up "rather pinned into position with a lot of bikes in front of me and people behind", meaning he "wasn't in a position to run away" if necessary.

Holding on to his bike, one of the thieves threatened him with the angle grinder, raising it towards his face, before the cafe's owner and Mr Derbyshire's son ran out to help as passers by filmed the incident.

Angle grinder bike thieves (Ben Derbyshire/Twitter)
Angle grinder bike thieves (Ben Derbyshire/Twitter)

"I think what happened was, from their point of view, it all got a bit too complicated so they chickened out," he said. "The proprietor of the restaurant came out immediately and was very supportive and very concerned and took our bikes in afterwards so we could finish our meals.

"I just think that's depressing and that they should be so aggressive about it. I mean, trying to intimidate me by, by pushing an angle, grinder into my face. That is not on."

Metropolitan Police attended the scene quickly, the cyclist reported, confirming that he was uninjured and able to cycle home. The police said there have not been any arrests, with witnesses who are yet to give information asked to call 101, ref 2586/12may.

Thieves wielding angle grinders and cutting through locks is far from a new problem, with footage of similar incidents sadly becoming all too common in UK cities. Last June, Labour MP Helen Hayes' bike was saved by a local councillor and staff working at a nearby restaurant after they spotted a thief cutting through the lock.

Thief attempts to steal MP's bike (credit - Margy Newens)

Just months earlier, a masked gang appeared unfazed by large crowds watching outside Surrey Quays shopping centre as they stole a Trek e-bike.

> Thieves use angle grinder to steal Trek bike locked outside busy shopping centre 

In February, thieves stole a cargo bike parked next to a bikehangar in East Dulwich, a member of the council replying to a social media post about the issue to report he had suffered two electric cargo bikes stolen within the last year.

Dan is the road.cc news editor and has spent the past four years writing stories and features, as well as (hopefully) keeping you entertained on the live blog. Having previously written about nearly every other sport under the sun for the Express, and the weird and wonderful world of non-league football for the Non-League Paper, Dan joined road.cc in 2020. Come the weekend you'll find him labouring up a hill, probably with a mouth full of jelly babies, or making a bonk-induced trip to a south of England petrol station... in search of more jelly babies.

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62 comments

Avatar
Owd Big 'Ead | 1 year ago
4 likes

What a sad state of affairs that we allow this kind of thing to go on unopposed by the majority, where getting your phone out to film it is, more appropriate than actually standing up to these scumbags.

I'm not advocating throwing punches or anything, but a few stand-byers actually standing beside Mr Derbyshire would have made the 4 wannabe thieves to reassess the situation and realise that this time there were no easy pickings to be had.

Smartphones are great at times, but they've totally eroded our sense of community and doing the right thing for our fellow citizens, when it matters.

 

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Hirsute replied to Owd Big 'Ead | 1 year ago
1 like

This isn't the only one where they threaten the would be interveners
https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/london-bike-thieves-stolen-v...

We can all imagine intervening, but the reality is a bit different.

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Owd Big 'Ead replied to Hirsute | 1 year ago
2 likes

Speak for yourself, 99/100 I'd always intervene.

Act first, worry about the consequences later.

It's got me into a fair number of scrapes over the years, but at least I've been true to myself.

I'm a firm believer that what goes around, comes around.

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Langsam replied to Owd Big 'Ead | 1 year ago
6 likes

I intervened a few years ago, got surrounded, stabbed twice and hospitalized with a punctured lung. I was lucky to survive. 
be very very careful out there. 

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sheridan replied to Langsam | 1 year ago
1 like
Langsam wrote:

I intervened a few years ago, got surrounded, stabbed twice and hospitalized with a punctured lung. I was lucky to survive. 
be very very careful out there. 

Yes, I'm reminded of a friend who was killed trying to break up a fight - RIP James.

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OldRidgeback | 1 year ago
4 likes

As an aside, the lock on my wife's bike jammed at the weekend. We all had a shot at shifting it but none of us could. In the end she borrowed an angle grinder from a neighbour and cut the old lock off. Nobody bothered to stop her and ask what she was doing, despite this being right outside a popular South London cinema aound midday.

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jaysa replied to OldRidgeback | 1 year ago
3 likes

My son used to D-lock his bike to railings outside a railway station. Came the day when the key snapped in the lock. A builder friend cut the lock with a petrol angle grinder. Both foot and car traffic stopped cos no-one wanted to run the gauntlet of the huge shower of sparks (blade was old and blunt). And no-one even questioned him ...

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mark1a | 1 year ago
1 like

This is next topic on Jeremy Vine, channel 5 for panel & phone guests to debate. Mr Derbyshire to be interviewed. 

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NOtotheEU | 1 year ago
2 likes

Getting out my phone to video it is the first thing I always think of whenever I see a 70 year old being threatened by thieves. I mean videoing it for likes is so much easier than actually making a positive impact on society.

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Hirsute replied to NOtotheEU | 1 year ago
4 likes

Without the video, there would not be any concrete evidence.
How would you safely defend anyone against an angle grinder? You'd need 3 or 4 people armed with pikes to do anything.

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NOtotheEU replied to Hirsute | 1 year ago
1 like

Makes me wonder how we managed before phones came along. If I had seen this from the phone users position I'm not going to stop and think about my own safety but just pile in. It helps that I'm 6.5 and 17 stone but I imagine most people would do the same and whatever happens, happens. If the 70 year old can stand up to them I'd be ashamed if I didn't. Bullies like that aren't brave, they just rely on most people shrugging their shoulders and passing on by.

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BIRMINGHAMisaDUMP replied to NOtotheEU | 1 year ago
0 likes

Sigh. 

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Hirsute replied to NOtotheEU | 1 year ago
4 likes

Before phones came along, we didn't have portable angle grinders.
How do you know anything about the cammer ? They could be 1.6m and 55kg for all you know
I think you are just generalising from your physical ability and most people would be hesitant.
Would you try and take on someone with a knife ?

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Rendel Harris replied to Hirsute | 1 year ago
5 likes
Hirsute wrote:

Before phones came along, we didn't have portable angle grinders. How do you know anything about the cammer ? They could be 1.6m and 55kg for all you know I think you are just generalising from your physical ability and most people would be hesitant. Would you try and take on someone with a knife ?

Exactly, and they don't have to be small either; I'm 6 foot tall, built like the proverbial and not, I hope, lacking in physical courage, but I'm not going to take on four guys, who have at least an angle grinder and probably more weapons about their persons, in defence of personal property (defending a person from attack would be a very different matter). At least in taking a video some useful evidence might be obtained.

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NOtotheEU replied to Rendel Harris | 1 year ago
1 like

Deleted my reply as I didn't read far enough down your post to see you'd intervene if it was a person rather than property.

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NOtotheEU replied to Hirsute | 1 year ago
0 likes
Hirsute wrote:

Would you try and take on someone with a knife ?

If they were attacking someone with it yes of course. How could you stand by and watch a 70 year old get attacked and not intervene?

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Hirsute replied to NOtotheEU | 1 year ago
1 like

You've just changed the goal posts.

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NOtotheEU replied to Hirsute | 1 year ago
0 likes
Hirsute wrote:

You've just changed the goal posts.

You changed the goal posts when you asked about a hypothetical 'someone with a knife' as we were discussing the situation with the 70 year old before that but I still answered honestly and in good faith.

If you're happy to agree to disagree that's fine, or even discuss it further but please don't try to twist things around to imply some sort of 'gotcha' moment.

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Hirsute replied to NOtotheEU | 1 year ago
0 likes

The question about a knife was a direct swap for an angle grinder - pretty sure people think twice about knives as they are aware of how much damage they can do.
You seemed ( or how I read it, rightly or wrongly) to be changing from stealing a bike to attacking a 70 year which is a category change.
Obviously you have a huge advantage in these situations due to your build but not everyone is built like that.

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quiff replied to Hirsute | 1 year ago
2 likes
Hirsute wrote:

Obviously you have a huge advantage in these situations due to your build but not everyone is built like that.

Yep. I'm built like a shit brickhouse so while I'd love to be the heroic type I'm much more likely to be the hospitalised type. 

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hawkinspeter replied to quiff | 1 year ago
3 likes
quiff wrote:

Yep. I'm built like a shit brickhouse so while I'd love to be the heroic type I'm much more likely to be the hospitalised type. 

An interesting exercise I've seen in a martial arts class was to arm a couple of fighters with marker pens and get them to pretend that they're knives. Let them spar for a couple of minutes and see how many fatal wounds they've got.

Doesn't matter how big or experienced you are, some idiot with a knife has a good chance of putting you in hospital.

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chrisonabike replied to hawkinspeter | 1 year ago
0 likes

My "received wisdom" was that most knife fights are over very quickly.  And that they're best avoided, being at best chancy affairs.

I would agree that a confident (not confrontational) approach seems to act as a deterrent to some kinds of trouble.  However that doesn't change your odds if someone *does* decide to "teach you a lesson".

UPDATE: a spade would seem to be the way to go, says military history.

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NOtotheEU replied to Hirsute | 1 year ago
0 likes
Hirsute wrote:

You seemed ( or how I read it, rightly or wrongly) to be changing from stealing a bike to attacking a 70 year which is a category change..

My apologies, I thought that was what we were talking about all along. Given that he wasn't hurt and the bike wasn't taken I understand your position.

I was going on the assumption that if I saw it happening from the beginning I would have rushed in to avoid any violence aimed at the old man bravely trying to stop the thieves. It would be a fair point to say that I could have been hurt badly or my actions may have made the situation turn more violent than it was but standing by and watching would not have been an option for me.

My build is an advantage but my lack of fighting skills isn't. I assume bullies usually run scared when confronted by someone bigger and if not then the consequences are my own fault. It wouldn't be the first time I took a beating defending someone innocent.

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jaysa replied to Hirsute | 1 year ago
1 like

I hear narwhal tusks are the thing ...

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Roulereo replied to NOtotheEU | 1 year ago
4 likes

No arrests from a violent gang style robbery in public, visible plates and box on at least one of the mopeds, with multiple witnesses, and having "attended the scene quickly"? 

The victim is basically defending himself, the police have done nothing. 

I guess the Met is very busy dancing in Tik Tok videos, waving rainbow flags and visiting people for posting things on Facebook. Also, the victim doesn't have any flags on his Twitter, so how can anyone take him seriously? 

The sad thing, here is that his only real option for justice is to use the D lock as its secondary use, to smash those cretins in any vulnerable spot. 

 

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BIRMINGHAMisaDUMP replied to Roulereo | 1 year ago
1 like

You (and the no to eu thing) should get down to the Hate Mail. It's probably more your level. 

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mark1a replied to BIRMINGHAMisaDUMP | 1 year ago
2 likes

You sound nice.

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open_roads replied to BIRMINGHAMisaDUMP | 1 year ago
2 likes

Funnily enough the new Chief Constable of Greater Manchester has referenced the distractions described in Roulereo's reply - pretty much saying that the force had been failing to serve the public because its officers and resources were being wasted on social-media friendly causes instead of real crime that blights the lives of victims.

Since the GMP force went back to "old fashioned" policing the detection rate for crime has improved markedly.

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chrisonabike replied to open_roads | 1 year ago
1 like

Hmm... problem is of course that lots of our lives now involve social media, like it or not.  That means that's where you can engage with people (if you think that's worthwhile) and also evidence is there.

Since the Manchester force was in special measures when he arrived in 2021 I'm not sure it's just him telling them to get off Twitter what fixed it.  His statements also sound more like a plea for the simplicities of the "old days".  FWIW here is some of what he said (back in 2022 to the Times):

"Using social media, in these very contested times, requires a particular skill. And it’s a skill that we do not have. So for the most part, regardless of our intentions, we tend to use social media badly.

And actually, reaching out to communities is all too often perceived as virtue signalling. And, candidly, in some cases it is virtue signalling."

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brooksby replied to chrisonabike | 1 year ago
3 likes
chrisonatrike wrote:

Hmm... problem is of course that lots of our lives now involve social media, like it or not.  That means that's where you can engage with people (if you think that's worthwhile) and also evidence is there.

This website is the only social media on which I engage.

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