A brazen thief, aiming to steal a bike belonging to a Labour MP in Herne Hill, fled the scene after being approached twice by staff working at a nearby restaurant.
Helen Hayes, the MP for Dulwich and West Norwood, had locked her bike to a rack outside the Peachy Goat restaurant, just over half a mile from the Herne Hill Velodrome, on Wednesday evening.
However, at around 8pm, a man was spotted trying to saw through the lock using a portable angle grinder, an increasingly common method for bike thieves.
A second man, wearing a hi-vis jacket, was also seen lurking in the area at the time of the attempted theft.
This is someone trying to steal my bike with a power tool in Herne Hill yesterday evening
Grateful to @margynewens for the photo & to staff at Peachy Goat who twice deterred him from finishing the task
Bike owners please be vigilant. Please do get in touch if you have any info pic.twitter.com/x5Qr8HsOLf
— Helen Hayes 💙🌹 (@helenhayes_) June 16, 2022
With sparks flying from the lock, Margy Newens – a Labour councillor for Dulwich Village – photographed the perpetrator, while a manager at Peachy Goat told Southwark News that members of staff twice approached the thief and stood outside to “give a bit of presence”, eventually causing him to flee without the MP’s bike.
With the lock almost fully broken, the restaurant’s staff then attempted to move the bike inside but couldn’t free it from the rack.
The morning after the incident, Labour MP Hayes tweeted: “This is someone trying to steal my bike with a power tool in Herne Hill yesterday evening.
“Grateful to Margey Newens for the photo and to staff at Peachy Goat who twice deterred him from finishing the task.
“Bike owners please be vigilant. Please do get in touch if you have any info.”
Newens also tweeted that the attempted theft marked “a slightly dramatic start to an evening out in Herne Hill… Sparks flying in broad daylight.”
The councillor also noted that she had learned two valuable lessons from the experience: “criminals don’t like being photographed in the act”, and “make sure you invest in a good bike lock”.
Bike thieves in London and beyond are increasingly equipping themselves with portable angle grinders, which nowadays can be small and relatively inexpensive, to cut through locks. And despite the blatantly obvious nature of this method, they often seem unbothered about carrying out their task in busy areas and in broad daylight.
For instance, a gang of mask-wearing thieves were filmed in March sawing through a bike lock on a busy Saturday afternoon in the centre of Greenwich, as drivers beeped their horns at them and passers-by commented on their actions.
In November last year we reported on another case in southeast London where a gang was filmed using an angle grinder to steal an e-bike outside a shopping centre.
That theft took place outside the Surrey Quays Shopping Centre in Rotherhithe, with the footage shot by road.cc reader Martin Pelant, who passed it onto police and, when he returned, the bike’s owner.
One of the thieves’ faces was clearly caught on camera, and the owner of the bike subsequently passed on a “possible ID” of one of the suspects to police.
Like this week’s incident in Herne Hill, in February thieves attempting to steal a bike on Leith Walk in Edinburgh, once again by cutting the lock with an angle grinder, fled when they were challenged by passers-by.
After the thieves scarpered, the people who had thwarted them waited by the bike for an hour to safeguard it until its owner, a nurse, returned.
Ryan joined road.cc in December 2021 and since then has kept the site’s readers and listeners informed and enthralled (well at least occasionally) on news, the live blog, and the road.cc Podcast. After boarding a wrong bus at the world championships and ruining a good pair of jeans at the cyclocross, he now serves as road.cc’s senior news writer. Before his foray into cycling journalism, he wallowed in the equally pitiless world of academia, where he wrote a book about Victorian politics and droned on about cycling and bikes to classes of bored students (while taking every chance he could get to talk about cycling in print or on the radio). He can be found riding his bike very slowly around the narrow, scenic country lanes of Co. Down.