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Prolific thief jailed for deliberately driving into cyclist before passenger made off with bike

Robert Smith and an accomplice targeted the lone cyclist as he rode down an alley, and then threatened him with a machete

A serial thief has been jailed for three years and nine months after deliberately driving into a cyclist, who was then threatened with a machete and forced to hand over his bike.

Robert Friendship Smith and an accomplice targeted the victim, who was riding an e-bike on his own in the Roker Avenue area of Sunderland in May, the Northern Echo reports.

As the cyclist turned down an alley, the 25-year-old pulled out of an adjacent street and deliberately drove his Vauxhall Insignia into the rider. Both Smith and the front-seat passenger then surrounded the stricken cyclist and warned him that they were in possession of a machete.

The cyclist, fearing for his life, then relinquished the e-bike (reportedly worth around £4,000) to the thieves, with Smith driving off in the car while the passenger scarpered on the stolen bike.

> "Deeply concerned" British Cycling steps in following spate of violent bikejackings across south London

Smith, who has 28 previous convictions for 60 offences, was later arrested after being recognised by officers on CCTV.

He pleased guilty to robbery at Newcastle Crown Court and was sentenced on Tuesday to three years and nine months in prison.

 “We will not tolerate violence on our streets and I am pleased that the seriousness of Smith’s behaviour has been reflected in this custodial sentence,” Northumbria Police’s Melissa McLeod said.

“He and his accomplice showed a total disregard for the welfare of their victim, driving his car directly at the cyclist before making threats and stealing his bike.

“I would like to thank the victim in this case for his bravery and cooperation throughout, and hope this reiterates our commitment as a force to pursue perpetrators and put them before the courts.

“We will continue to do all we can to tackle those who prey on others and work hand-in-hand with the community to help ensure the North East remains as safe as it possibly can be to live, work and visit.”

> Lone female cyclists are “being targeted”, says former Scottish champion

This latest deliberate targeting of a lone cyclist by bike thieves follows a spate of similar violent robberies in other parts of the UK.

In April, cyclists in Surrey and south London were warned of multiple reports of a moped gang seemingly targeting lone female cyclists after a rider was held down and had their bike stolen during an attack.

> Cyclists robbed by moped gang as two more bikejackings reported across south London

There was another spike in moped-related bikejackings in early July, as two cyclists were robbed in separate but very similar incidents in Oprington in south London, just three days after another rider narrowly escaped a robbery attempt – during which the rider was told he would be stabbed if he didn’t give up his 2022 Specialized S-Works Tarmac SL7 – in nearby West Wickham.

These reports prompted British Cycling to acknowledge their members’ concerns about the potential for violent bikejackings, with the governing body pledging to work with the police to bring the latest spike under control, just as they had the previous autumn following a spate of incidents in London’s Richmond Park.

> Richmond Park bikejacking victim feared being “decapitated in the street” by machete-wielding thugs

In October 2021, pro rider Alexandar Richardson – who finished third behind winner Mark Cavendish at this year’s British national championships – was knocked off his bike and threatened by a gang with a machete while riding through the park in southwest London.

Less than 24 hours before in the same area, the owner of a 2021 Cannondale System Six was pushed off his bike by two balaclava-clad men on an electric scooter.

Ryan joined road.cc as a news writer in December 2021. He has written about cycling and some ball-centric sports for various websites, newspapers, magazines and radio. Before returning to writing about cycling full-time, he completed a PhD in History and published a book and numerous academic articles on religion and politics in Victorian Britain and Ireland (though he remained committed to boring his university colleagues and students with endless cycling trivia). He can be found riding his bike very slowly through the Dromara Hills of Co. Down.

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