Fed-up bike theft victim organises own sting to retrieve stolen wheels

� A Hampstead man whose bicycle was stolen 19 times organised his own sting operation to claim back his newest one.

Anthony McGowan, a writer, has been a keen cyclist for years but has not had the greatest luck with his wheels over the years. So when his latest purchase was taken from outside his house, it proved one irritation too far.

Knowing it was likely to be re-sold online, Mr McGowan set up an alert for bikes being sold on the community small ads site Gumtree.

A few days later, his beloved �1,000 bike appeared for sale. “I knew straight away it was mine,” he said.

“Only a very few of this type of bike had been sold and I had changed the saddle to one which suited me just before it was stolen.

“It was a one in a million chance that there would be a bike the same as mine on sale legitimately.”

The seller was asking �700 so Mr McGowan arranged to meet him at Tufnell Park tube station. He called the local paper and the police to request support and protection. The Ham&High photographer agreed to attend.

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But Hampstead police suggested that he meet the seller, see the bike first and then call them once he had identified it and organised a second viewing.

Worried the thief would get spooked, Mr McGowan pushed ahead and the police said they would try to get to the meeting.

At 2pm last Wednesday, right on time, a teenager turned up with the bike and Mr McGowan asked for a test drive. “I can’t believe he let me ride it off,” he said.

“I was thinking I would just ride off but I decided to go back and tell him what I had done – and point out the photographer. This is really not the sort of thing I would normally do. But I was just so fed up of getting my bike stolen and I thought this was the best way to get it back – and I did.”

Cameron Allsop, of Camden Police, said: “The images will be circulated Met- wide to attempt to identify the suspect involved.

“The images may be of someone who has legitimately purchased the bike and attempting to sell it on.”

added: “If a member of the public finds their stolen property on internet sites such as Gumtree, they are advised to contact police who will carry out an investigation.”