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Elite mountain biker who had £45k of bikes stolen hires private eye – but is frustrated that police haven’t followed up leads he gave them

Staffordshire burglary is one of three major break-ins in county in recent weeks in which thieves have stolen multiple bikes

A Staffordshire-based elite mountain biker who had £45,000 worth of bicycles stolen in burglary at his parents’ house hired a private investigator to try an track them down – but has spoken of his frustration at police not following up leads supplied by the detective he engaged.

The burglary was one of several in the county in recent months, with businesses and schools targeted, as well as private residences and thieves making off with bikes worth a total of more than £70,000.

Damian Groves, known in mountain biking circles as Dogman and sponsored by Niner Bikes, had stored the four bikes, two of which were supplied by his sponsors, the others being display bikes from the brand, at his parents’ house in Wolstanton, but they were stolen in late June.

“My mum and dad got up and saw the garage had been broken into and the bikes have been taken,” he told The Stoke Sentinel.

“So we ring the police and go down that road. And then the following Wednesday I get a phone call from a friend, who told me that a third party had been offered my bikes by two individuals. He gave me those two names. I told the police that. They admitted to me that those people were known to the police already but could not say what for.

“We then shared a post on social media on Instagram. That post went viral and somebody said they had got my bikes and, cutting a long story short, extorted £300 out of me that night. I reported this to the police.”

He subsequently hired a private investigator, and was also alerted on social media to one of his bikes being offered for sale abroad.

He said: “I got a message from a man in Hungary saying ‘I saw your Instagram post. I believe I’ve spotted one of your bikes for sale’.

“I immediately told my private investigator and the police. It was an advert from Poland.

“They traced the name to an address in Leicestershire. So the PI had a drone in the air and you can match the background of where my bike is advertised to this garden in Leicestershire. I then gave all this to the police, I've been passed back and forth. Based on other intel, my bikes are due to be sold in Poland on the 20th, so they're probably on their way there now.”

Staffordshire Police said: “We were called to a property on Watlands Avenue, Newcastle-under-Lyme, on Sunday, June 25. The victim reported four mountain bikes had been stolen from the property.

“It is also believed all four Niner bikes were stolen between 10.30pm on Saturday, June 24 and 4am on Sunday, June 25. Two of the stolen bikes were red and the other two bikes were black and green. Inquiries are ongoing.

“If you were in the area and have any information, CCTV or dashcam footage that could help us with our inquiries, call 101, quoting incident 223 of June 25, or message us using Live Chat on our website – www.staffordshire.police.uk.”

But Mr Groves, who said that the investigation has cost him £2,500, says he has been frustrated by the reaction of the police, despite the information he has supplied them.

“We’re not talking about minor crime here,” he insisted. “We’re talking about a huge. I’ve provided the police with all this intel and they've just done nothing.

“All I keep getting from the police is ‘were the bikes insured?’ I have run out of funds for the PI. I’m a normal guy, I haven’t got endless pockets.

“The way the law works, these criminals know the chances are slim that they will get caught. That is a shitshow that shows what the state of the country we are in right now.

“You hand the police all this information, and I don't think it's that the police aren't interested. I just think they haven't got the power and the system is just no good. It has broken me.”

Other recent bike-related crimes in the area recently include the theft of six bikes in a break-in at the Pau bike shop in Trentham, with the value of the bikes and damage to the premises caused by the burglars estimated at £20,000.

Also targeted was St Peter’s Academy in Fenton, where two containers were broken into over the weekend of 23 and 24 July, with 14 bikes worth a combined total of £8,000, and used by an after-school club, taken.

Michael Keeling , a teacher at the school, believes it was a targeted crime, explaining: “They cut the perimeter fence, went straight to the two containers that had these bikes in, didn’t go near the one where the staff bikes are.

“We'd only had them 12 weeks. The kids had been working on them, maintaining them. The after-school club was really well-attended and this is a time when many parents and students can't afford the luxury of a bike.”

Police are investigating both of those burglaries, and have said that six people have been arrested on suspicion of handling stolen goods after officers recovered 16 bikes from a workshop in Stoke-on-Trent.

It Is unclear whether any of the bikes are ones taken in the three burglaries outlined above, but police are appealing for the lawful owners of the bicycles to come forward and claim them, after discovering the haul at a premises on Shelton Old Road while undertaking inquiries in the area.

The suspects have been released under investigation, and The Stoke Sentinel has published a gallery of the bikes that have been recovered.

A spokesman for the force said: “Do you recognise these bikes? They were seized from a workshop on Shelton Old Road, Stoke-on-Trent, and we believe that they have been stolen.

Officers were conducting enquiries in the area when they found a number of items inside the workshop. The items included the 16 bicycles pictured which were seized and taken to Longton Police Station.

“We are keen to return these bikes to their owners.”

Staffordshire Police have asked anyone recognising any of the bicycles to email Richard.longmore [at] staffordshire.police.uk quoting incident 224 of 4/8.

Simon joined road.cc as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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20 comments

Avatar
David9694 | 9 months ago
0 likes

All too often it feels like the police are just in statistician mode, recording not tackling individual crimes. 

This comment, from a schoolteacher where another wretched burglary took place caught my eye:

Michael Keeling , a teacher at the school [St Peter's CofE Academy], believes it was a targeted crime, explaining: “They cut the perimeter fence, went straight to the two containers that had these bikes in, didn’t go near the one where the staff bikes are.

“We'd only had them 12 weeks. The kids had been working on them, maintaining them. The after-school club was really well-attended and this is a time when many parents and students can't afford the luxury of a bike.” ( my emphasis )

Principal's message September 2022: "Students can use any of the three gates at the start and end of the day, but we ask parents to drop off and pick up using the Fenton Manor car park (you don't need a ticket 1445-1515) to ease traffic congestion and for everyone's safety."

Luxury indeed.

Avatar
ROOTminus1 | 9 months ago
3 likes

The "problem" is that the job of Police officers is no longer about solving crime, it's about classifying crime and hitting government targets. Investigating theft takes a lot of work for typically minor sentences, so by some accountants evaluation just isn't worth the police time.
Hence conviction efforts are applied to offences against the person act (unless it overlaps with road traffic act), whatever the political hot button topic is, and automatable prosecutions (anything ANPR related)

Avatar
ROOTminus1 replied to ROOTminus1 | 9 months ago
3 likes

Not that I condone vigilantism, but it is still absolutely bizarre to me that hypothetically speaking, if you were to catch a thief in the act then you would have a much better outcome if you hop into a car to pursue them, and cause a fatality, than if you grab a heavy blunt weapon and beat the crap out of them.
One instance would likely land you with attempted murder resulting in grevious bodily harm, the other death by careless driving.

Avatar
dubwise | 9 months ago
8 likes

Very poor but unsurprising.

My son, 11, was knocked off his bike last week by a driver. The police were contacted but were "too busy" and would get back to us. 11 days later and nothing.

Totally sickened by their callous attitude.

Avatar
Born_peddling | 9 months ago
4 likes

In my experience the police are ignorant of evidence especially if it was easily missed or provided by the victim of said theft. The range of attitudes range from completely dismissive to visually annoyed when presented with such. A friend had their work ride stolen a year back and when they obtained local CCTV (because the police didn't ask) he was accused of setting up an insurance scam....Kinda funny as it was a WORK bike with documentation to prove so..... Overall maybe if it was classed as a woke crime they'd have done something about it?

Avatar
cyclingTomsk replied to Born_peddling | 9 months ago
13 likes

You had me agreeing up until the pointless woke comment.

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LukeH55 replied to cyclingTomsk | 9 months ago
1 like

How is it pointless? It's the truth. £45k of bikes, do nothing. Misgender someone, they'll be there in seconds.

Avatar
Rendel Harris replied to LukeH55 | 9 months ago
11 likes

LukeH55 wrote:

How is it pointless? It's the truth. £45k of bikes, do nothing. Misgender someone, they'll be there in seconds.

Running a quick Google for police investigating "misgendering", I can find three instances of this in the UK (I gave up on the eighth page as the results petered out) being investigated by police; bear in mind that if a criminal complaint is made to the police they are obliged to investigate. So your implication, Mr Whatasurprisefirsttimeposter, that the police aren't investigating bike theft because they're too busy investigating misgendering, would appear to be cobblers.

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grOg replied to Rendel Harris | 9 months ago
0 likes

I find it amusing that a brief mention of woke triggers all the lefties..

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Rendel Harris replied to grOg | 9 months ago
6 likes

grOg wrote:

I find it amusing that a brief mention of woke triggers all the lefties..

I find it amusing that the right spout abject rubbish, half truths and downright lies then as soon as they're called on it start whining about "woke lefties". It really does appear that the majority of the new right have never evolved beyond the playground bully name calling level; we see this everywhere from Johnson's "Captain Hindsight" and "Sir Beer Korma" to Braveman's "tofu eating wokerati" to Lee Anderson's "Fuck off back to France". Utterly lamentable..

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Hirsute replied to Rendel Harris | 9 months ago
2 likes

I don't know about you Rendel, but I'm eating for peace !

//pbs.twimg.com/media/F36XJdQWAAAM5mR?format=jpg&name=small)

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alchemilla replied to LukeH55 | 9 months ago
3 likes

Err, no they won't!
You've been reading too much Daily Mail!

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David9694 replied to alchemilla | 9 months ago
0 likes

wokecrime - clearly space did not permit the description of the full scale police response here 

https://www.bournemouthecho.co.uk/news/23729446.ringwood-carnival-condem...

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RobD replied to Born_peddling | 9 months ago
11 likes

What's a Woke crime? or are you referring to the fact that the theft occurred at night while the residents were sleeping?

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Clem Fandango replied to RobD | 9 months ago
6 likes

I'm confused, aren't "bloody cyclists" a bunch of red light jumping, LTN demanding lefty elites? Surely it must be a woke crime.

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cyclingTomsk replied to RobD | 9 months ago
1 like

Best comment of the day... you win the Internet. 👏

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Secret_squirrel | 9 months ago
3 likes

A poor show. Evidently handed on a plate and they are too under resourced to bother. 

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OldRidgeback replied to Secret_squirrel | 9 months ago
1 like

It is very poor policing.

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open_roads replied to Secret_squirrel | 9 months ago
3 likes

The police have a record (all time high) number of officers.

The issue is a complete lack of strategy and leadership compounded by a belief in many forces that tackling small crimes isn't of value or part of their job.

A proof point is GMP - which has been turned round from a failed force 2 years ago to one of the best performing today  - the only thing that's changed is a new leader with a clear strategy that includes investigating "small" crimes and anti-social behaviour.

Avatar
Steve K replied to open_roads | 9 months ago
3 likes

They've just edged above the previous high, after years of declining numbers, and in terms of officers per head of population they are not the highest ever.  https://fullfact.org/crime/police-officer-uplift-numbers/

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